SAN FRANCISCO (BCN / CBS SF) – San Francisco Inspector Catherine Stefani on Tuesday announced a ballot initiative for the June 2022 election, which aims to expand services available to victims of domestic violence and other crimes.
The initiative would create the Office of Victims and Witnesses, as well as establish the right to civil counseling for victims of domestic violence.
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According to Stefani, amid an increase in certain types of crimes in the city such as burglary and murder, the ballot initiative is urgently needed because, often, victims are left with limited choices.
“We are here because we know that San Franciscoans who are victims of crime are not getting the help or the help they need and deserve. Every week, I get letters from voters who are facing the worst circumstances in their lives. and they don’t know where to turn, ”Stefani said.
“Unfortunately, the city’s response hasn’t been so urgent that I feel it has to be. Services for victims are divided between several sections, each with its own mission and mandates. This leaves victims with the task of navigating a complex urban bureaucracy at the very moment when they are least able to do so, and that must end now, ”she said.
According to Stefani, once established, the Office of Victims and Witnesses would be “a one-stop shop outside the police station where victims can get the help they need.”
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In addition to providing comprehensive services, the office will also help identify deficiencies in service and advocate for new ways to support victims.
The office will also be tasked with administering the right to civil counseling for victims of domestic violence, which will help victims gain full legal representation through a grant, assisting them with issues such as child support or custody, protection orders, housing, employment, and immigration issues, Stefani said.
Several supervisors support Stefani’s initiative, including supervisors Ahsha Safai, Matt Haney, Myrna Melgar and Rafael Mandelman.
“Providing legal services to survivors of domestic violence is a critical tool that was lacking here in San Francisco,” Safai said. “This is a major initiative and I think it will do enormous services for the 90 percent of victims who do not qualify for victim services today. Having one office to consolidate that and be the most common and guide people through the bureaucracy will be a huge support.”
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“No victim should be alone in this,” Haney said. “Many of the people who are victims of crime do not want to be treated fairly. They may have language barriers, they may have concerns about immigration status, and our city needs to be there to support them 100 percent. ”