Local officials gathered at Academy Park in Albany today for a ceremony to honor the memory of Albany County crime victims.
Representatives of law enforcement and government came together with advocates at the Crime Victim's Memorial in Academy Park, across from the capitol. This is Crime Victims’ Rights Week: every April since 1981, communities across the nation pause to honor crime victims and those who support them. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan: "We have 33 states that have amended their constitution to address crime victim rights. The National Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004 provided for basic rights, such as the right to information about crime, the right to be present and to speak at criminal justice proceedings. The right to restitution and compensation. And the right to protection."
On June 18, 2014, Claire Falese was a passenger in a car involved in a head-on collision with a truck that crossed the double-yellow line. The trucker was hopped up on pain killers and tranquilizers. Falese says if you know anyone abusing prescription drugs, get them help. "Our voices must be heard. These crimes must end. There is strength in numbers, and our communities must come together to end these kinds of issues."
Falese was seven months pregnant at the time of the crash. Her boyfriend, who was driving their car, was injured so badly doctors didn't think he's survive. He did, as did her baby and 2-year old son, also a passenger.
Another survivor, Sandra LaPlante, lost a leg on June 22, 2014 when a drunk driver crossed the double-yellow line, smashing into her motorcycle.1 "I've gone through numerous sockets for my prosthetic. As well as physical therapy, emotional therapy, and constant doctor appointments. I'm also seeing a pain management doctor for phantom pain. I have excruciating pain in a foot that doesn't exist anymore."
The offenders in both the Falese and LaPlante cases got off with light sentences of six months and two years, respectively. LaPlante added, "If he had been punished after his first offense, I wouldn't be standing here as a crime victim. Stricter laws need to be put into place for DWI. The reality of it all is, after serving his time, he's back to living his life like nothing ever happened. As for me, I'll never have the life I had before. I was given a life sentence."
In line with the theme of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week: Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope, Albany County District Attorney David Soares presented victim advocacy awards to law officers and a former supervising crime victim caseworker from his office. There was a moving reading of the poem "Death of an Innocent" and a placement of flags around the base of the memorial.
Mark Pratt from Victory Church gave the closing remarks. "Don't leave here today saying 'This was a nice ceremony.' 'It was a beautiful day.' 'It was a good turnout.' It was a nice ceremony. Leave here today saying 'What can I do?' 'What can I do to be an advocate of change?' 'What can I do in my community?' 'What can I do to change the culture of our community?' If all of us work together, all of us partner together, we can change it."