As the Orange County Crime Victims Vigil will be held on Tuesday, April 20 at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Hamptonburgh, NY, Crime Victims Assistance Program head Cathy Fox shares her thoughts on the rise in crime rates nationwide during the pandemic.
“I don’t really think there’s one thing you can attribute it to,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of reasons where there might be an increase.”
She states that uncertainty over both the economy and the pandemic may have contributed to this rise. Reduction in staffing among police departments also played a role, according to Fox.
After a drop of domestic violence cases was reported in the Orange County area for 2019, concerns were raised at the Crime Victims Assistance Program about how to address the possible uptick due to pandemic-related isolation.
“One of our biggest challenges was knowing we weren’t having that one on one contact with many of our victims because of what COVID brought along,” she said. “Even though we’ve worked hard to try to craft an ability to work with people technologically, I’m wondering and I would suspect that some victims might have found it really difficult to open up to somebody on the phone or FaceTime.”
For this year’s vigil, which will have limited attendance due to the pandemic, the theme is “Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.” This theme appears to be very timely after a year of people feeling isolated in quarantine from one another.
Court cases have been delayed due to the pandemic, which has been difficult for victims and their families according to Fox.
“When you think about the courts, the courts have been shut down, opened up slowly, [and now] we’re open a little and shut down again,” she said. “I can see that there’s been a lot of delay in the prosecution of cases, especially the criminal cases. For victims, I think that’s really unsettling for them.”
This trying time for many families, including those who are victims of a violent crime, has Fox reflecting on the burden that these families can carry even after they get justice.
“The general public really doesn’t understand that victimization for some people can be an everlasting event,” she said. “Victimization isn’t something that ever, I think, stops for a lot of people.”
Many of the survivors are frequent attendees of the vigil.
“For 20 plus years, they still feel that connection,” she said. “They still feel impacted by that event, even if it was a long time ago.”
She said that the victims she has interacted with over the years are some of the strongest people she knows, in spite of the adversity they have had to overcome.
“In reality, crime victims are truly courageous survivors of any terrible experiences and losses in their lives,’ she said. “With the help of the court, victim service providers, their loved ones, and probably everybody else in the community, these people can actually can survive. Their offenders don’t have to continuously have power over them.”
The 2021 Orange County Crime Victims’ Vigil will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20 at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Hamptonburgh. Attendance is limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is held in tandem with National Crime Victims Week, which is every year from April 18 to 24.