Twenty members of the new Crime Victims’ Advisory Committee of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office were announced last week — including an openly gay member.
The panel committee meets monthly and advises the D.A.’s Victim and Witness Services Unit about empowering witnesses of crime, supporting victims and dealing with residual trauma.
District Attorney Larry Krasner praised the new CVAC members during a June 21 press conference. “I’m excited that they have joined our movement, and very much look forward to receiving their recommendations about how we can improve the services and supports we offer to Philadelphia’s witnesses and victims of crime.”
At one point during the event, Krasner choked back tears while introducing a female CVAC member whose son was recently murdered.
Most of the CVAC members are either victims of violent crime or relatives of crime victims. Several CVAC members are the parents of young people who were murdered due to gun violence.
Movita Johnson-Harrell, supervisor of the D.A.’s Victim and Witness Services Unit, said the first CVAC meeting will be held in July. The CVAC meetings won’t be open to the public, but policy recommendations made by the committee will be publicized.
Johnson-Harrell said CVAC will review a wide range of areas, including communication between prosecutors and victims, the manner in which relatives of homicide victims are notified by authorities about their loss, and citywide training regarding victims’ rights.
“The committee is specifically [geared] so we stop harming people that have been harmed,” she said. “We’ll look at the gaps in the system and how we can fix the gaps.”
During the press conference, Sylvester Johnson, a former Philadelphia police commissioner, said he’s proud to serve on CVAC as a consultant. “I support [Krasner] 100-percent,” Johnson said. “He’s making the system fair and consistent. I will do everything I can to assist the group.”
Sophie Heng, a victim of domestic abuse, noted the humanity of everyone serving on CVAC. “Victims are not just numbers on a court docket,” Heng said.
Other CVAC members are Madison Alig, Laquisha Anthony, Grisell Bostic-Smith, Kimberly Burrell, Kangie Crews, Lisa Espinosa, Christa Hayburn, Catherine Kelly, David Krain, Kathy Lees, Cheryl Pedro, Felicia Pendleton, Tamara Qayyum, Rafiqua Saunders, Sylvia Simms, Trina Singleton and Vinnie Thompson.