Kent County Prosecutor's Office starts on-site victims assistance program at Hispanic Center
In an effort to help victims of crime who may be reluctant to come forward, the Kent County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan have partnered to create an on-site victim assistance program. The program will give victims the opportunity to talk with prosecutors at the Hispanic Center instead of the courthouse, which officials say can be somewhat overwhelming for some. Noemy Aguilar is a Victim Witness Advocate at the Prosecutor's office, and says the hope is that the neutral site will provide a more comfortable place for victims to reach out to the office.
“The Hispanic Center we just want to make it a safe environment for them, where they get to know us, we will introduce ourselves to them, and we can get an idea of what they are there for.”
Regardless of race, anyone is free to utilize the new program. However, Hispanic Center’s Executive Director Roberto Torres says the need for a safe place for victims to talk to prosecutors is especially needed in the Hispanic community, where many victims don’t come forward out of fear of deportation.
“And that is a real concern to many Latinos here in our community," Torres said. "You have a climate now that has permeated our country, where Latinos are concerned that they can go in to get one service, and then that information may be shared with other agencies, and next thing they know they have an intervention with immigration officials.”
Aguilar says, that’s not going to happen with the Kent County Prosecutor’s office.
“No one here in our office is calling ICE, our policy in victim witness and the Prosecutor’s office we are not calling immigration. That does not matter we help any victim regardless of their status,” she said.
Torres said that builds a bridge.
“All of it is really about trust," Torres said. "It’s about building a relationship. So their staff will be here, they will develop a relationship with these clients that come in, once they do that these clients now know they have a friend over at the County Prosecutor’s office.”
The victim assistance program begins this Friday.