|Published:||Feb 15, 2011 12:02 AM EST|
|Updated:||Feb 14, 2011 9:02 PM EST|
CAPE CORAL- Victims and survivors of crimes plead with Cape Coral City Council not to cut the Victims Advocate Program.
Cape Police Department is working hard to save the program, including eliminating one position and getting grant money, but people fear it may not be enough.
"You go in shock. You just do not know what's going to happen. It's the Victim Advocate who will tell you, hold your hand and support you," Gail Peluso.
Nearly four years ago, Peluso's teenage son, Gerry Rabon was killed when the convenient store where he worked was robbed.
Since that day, Peluso says a victim's advocate has been by her side.
"People forget. A victim advocate never forgets. They are always there for their victims. Everyone else, their lives go on, but not a victim advocate," Peluso told WINK News.
Gail was counciled by a victims advocate at the Lee Sheriff's Office, but she and others are trying to save the program at the Cape Coral Police Department.
Monday night they're speaking to city councilors, begging them to not cut funding to the program.
Earlier Monday, the Cape Police Department announced they eliminated one position from the program and cut spending by 25 percent.
They are also applying for a grant to supplement some of the cost.
Department spokesman, Lt. Tony Sizemore says they are doing everything they can to save the program.
But some residents say the program needs to go entirely because it's a duplication of services.
Critics say the Lee Sheriff's Office or the State Attorney's Office can provide the program.
But Cape PD says that would diminish the level of service.
In a letter to Cape Police, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott agreed.
Writing, "as it is, victims of crime get the proverbial short end of the stick, and my fear is that this hint of consideration for diminished services will add to that problem."
Lee County Sheriff's Office has 5 victims advocates.
With an estimated population in the unincorporated county at 350,000, the means one victim advocate for every 70,000 residents.
At Fort Myers Police there's 1 victims advocate.
With an estimated population of 60,000, that's one advocate for 60,000 residents.
There's now 3 victims advocates at Cape Coral Police Department.
The city's population is around 162,000, that's one for every 54,000 residents.
Last year, victim advocates at Cape PD helped more than two thousand victims and their families in the city.
If the advocates at Cape police are cut, Gail believes the victims lose.
She and other say you can't put a price on that.
"Without them you would collapse. The system would collapse. Justice would not be done for the victims left behind," she said.
Through their taxes, every Cape Coral resident is paying less than a dollar a year for the Victims Advocate program.
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