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Local group details advocacy work for family members of victims

Ribbons hang from a tree at Hostetler Park in Downtown Anchorage, in memory of those who lost their lives to violent crimes.
Ribbons hang from a tree at Hostetler Park in Downtown Anchorage, in memory of those who lost their lives to violent crimes.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 5:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In downtown Anchorage, Hostetler Park is dedicated to the memory of Alaska victims of homicide. Using a $10,000 grant, the park was rededicated in 2019 by the Anchorage Rotary Club and Victims for Justice — an advocacy group that works to bridge the gaps between the victim’s family members and the offices that deal with violent crimes.

Jorge Rae-Garcia says his experience with Victims for Justice — after his son was murdered in 2016 — is a testament to the organization’s ability to work with the district attorney’s office and Anchorage Police Department investigators to keep family members in the know.

"They gave me a lot of support,” Garcia told Alaska’s News Source on Friday morning. “We, the victims, have a lot of rights. The thing is that we have to look for them.”

According to Garcias, his family initially resorted to knocking on doors and asking strangers for any information that could assist them to determine what happened to their son. He also had trouble reaching the appropriate offices to get information on the now-convicted killer’s court dates.

Victims for Justice was able to get in touch with the DA’s office and continued to support Garcia throughout a 27-month-long trial. While Garcia says he couldn’t be more pleased with his experiences with the group, Victims for Justice Executive Director Victoria Shanklin says the organization has been working to streamline the process of connecting with those in need of their services.

“Our goal in the last couple of the years has been to build our relationships and build referrals at each stage of the process,” she said. “One of the things we found is that it took a long time for victims to find us.”

The organization offers several services to violent crime victims, including coordinating communications with law enforcement, court accompaniment, emotional support groups, limited emergency financial support and assistance filing from crime compensation.

According to Shanklin, the organization’s focus on remaining active in the court system previously led them to more referrals once cases were already in advanced stages. Now, Victims for Justice and APD’s patrol officers are working on developing a closer relationship, so that the non-profit will have more opportunities to assist families immediately after an incident.

“They are responding to phone calls on everything, across the board," Shanklin said. "Allowing us to focus on the victims ... I think that they understand that will help them as well.”

Victims for Justice is a small non-profit operation. There are currently three advocates on staff and they each handle cases from throughout the state. Donations to help assist the organization in continuing its mission can be made here.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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