Crime victims, witnesses have helping hand

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Victims of, or witnesses to, crimes are not alone at the Air Force Academy. 

The Academy Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff is standing by to help, and working diligently to get the word out. 

Crimes are not limited to sexual assault. 

"We're so much bigger than that," said paralegal assistant Sandie Miles. 

Although they serve as members of the assault team with the Academy Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, the program staff helps victims and witnesses deal with such crimes as theft, harassment, military equal opportunity and child victims. 

Victims and witnesses can receive help in matters regarding the military justice system, obtaining police reports, dealing with insurance claims, follow-ups and making phone contacts, for example. 

The bottom line of the program is that victims and witnesses have rights as well as alleged perpetrators. They must be treated with fairness and respect, be reasonably protected and to be kept informed regarding conviction and punishment. They also must be notified of court proceedings and be present, if possible, to confer with those prosecuting the case and receive restitution if available. 

Ms. Miles stressed the program coordinators do not serve as counselors nor do they deal directly with the legal system in prosecution or defense, the job of the lawyers for the Judge Advocate General. 

They do often just listen, however. 

"Sometimes people just want to vent," she said of the program's clients. 

Academy lawyer Aaron Haase said the program is open to all working on or stationed at the Academy or anyone affected by someone working on or stationed at the Academy. If appropriate, victims and witnesses may also be referred to the El Paso County Victim/Witness Program. 

At any given time, the program staff has from 40 to 50 cases open. 

They seek referrals culled from the 10th Security Forces crime blotter, among other sources, but would like to see more. 

"The success of the program depends on the front line," Mr. Haase said, referring in part to commanders and first sergeants. 

Those living and working on the Academy can help themselves in crime prevention. 

"They need to do what they can to keep from becoming victims," Mr. Haase said.
Ms. Miles said Academy people need to be careful to secure belongings, as one measure, in such locations as gyms and private vehicles. 

For assistance to victims or witnesses of crimes, contact the Academy JAG office at 719-333-3642 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Outside those hours, call the 10th Security Forces Squadron at 719-333-2000.