CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The Cape Coral City Council says it's standing by a police program that helps the families of crime victims.
The emotional appeal to save the city's Victim Advocate program came after a citizen-- not the council-- suggested saving money by eliminating the program.
One by one, family members who lost loved ones to accidents or murder-- or were victims themselves-- shared their stories of how victim's advocates helped them through life's most difficult times.
"It was the advocate who guided and helped me when my son died. I didn't know what to do," said Gail Peluso.
Peluso helped lead the appeal. She was helped by a similar program after her son was killed in a robbery in Estero.
"(The advocate) was the one who gave me this, my son's ashes, because I couldn't get him for over a year," Peluso said.
Council members say eliminating advocates was never on the table, just a suggestion by one citizen.
Interim Police Chief Jay Murphy says one person did leave the advocate program for another position, but the three advocates who remain are safe in their jobs.
"There is money to be saved in this city, but this is not an area to do it," said council member Chris Chulakes-Leetz.
Families say they're pleased by the council's response.
"It was very surprising, its very heartwarming to know that its not going to go away," said Helene Lagudi.
Interim Chief Murphy says they did reduce the cost of the program by about half, but the city has worked with the state attorney general for the funds to keep the advocate program going.