'Every Victim--Every Time'

On a daily basis, it is sad but true, someone in this country is victimized by crime. According to a statistic noted in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) report, Crime in the United States, 2005: Murder, one person is murdered every 31 minutes. The frequency of crime, however, does not diminish its impact or negate the importance of attention that should be placed on the problem of criminal victimization.

When crime of any type impacts victims and their families, their lives are never again the same. For those individuals who survive their victimization, they are often haunted by the memory of the incident and can develop lingering trauma that evokes such conditions as post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, anxiety, fear, and the inability to trust, among other factors. Victims who are physically injured may be imposed with unending, permanent disabilities that can severely affect their quality of life. Murder victims have their lives senselessly cut short by a criminal act that has lasting consequences for the surviving family members.

Victims of crime and family survivors must be recognized for what they have endured, and a commitment to accord them the dignity, respect, and recognition they deserve should be a continuous process. During National Crime Victims' Rights Week--April 22 -28, 2007--crime victims and survivors are remembered, and awareness is generated for the importance of their legal rights. The theme for this year's week of recognition is "Every Victim, Every Time."

Victims, every time, deserve to receive the responsible and appropriate treatment they deserve. It is important to recall past successes, but to also recognize failures that require improvement. Every victim--every survivor-- every time-- deserves the most successful outcome possible under the circumstances that impact their lives.

A notable homicide case serves as a motivator for clear policies and protocols that must be in place by all components of the criminal justice system, as well as other governmental entities, in order to prevent the enhancement of victimization. David E. Rosenbaum was a retired and renowned reporter and editor for The New York Times who was brutally murdered, at age 63, one evening in January 2006 as he walked in his residential neighborhood in Washington, D.C. He was beaten on the head with a metal pipe and robbed of his wallet. If this was not tragic enough, the events that followed added to his victimization and that of his family.

An Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit, composed of fully trained medics, was closer to the scene of where Mr. Rosenberg was attacked, but it was not dispatched. The Basic Life Support Unit (BLS) that was sent on the call got lost en route and arrived 23 minutes later while the victim was lying on the street injured. The victim was not medically assessed appropriately and was categorized as a "stable" patient. When police arrived, they assumed the Mr. Rosenbaum was intoxicated because his vomit was visibly present. Moreover, they did not look for his identification and did not complete a report. The BLS unit did not transport the victim to the closest hospital, but instead, took the victim to a more distant hospital. At the hospital, Mr. Rosenbaum was designated as a low priority case, and he remained on a gurney for one hour before his head injury was noticed. He died two days later.

Mr. Rosenbaum was not immediately identified as a crime victim. The day following the crime, police discovered his credit cards had been used, and only then did they realize he had been the victim of a violent crime. Two individuals, Percy Jordan and Michael Hamlin, were subsequently arrested and charged for his murder. Mr. Hamlin cooperated with prosecutors and testified against Mr. Jordan. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Mr. Jordan was convicted of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, and robbery of a senior citizen. He was sentenced on January 12, 2007 to 65 years in prison.

The family of David Rosenbaum was tremendously impacted by this crime. At the time of his death, Mr. Rosenbaum's wife, Virginia, was suffering from colon cancer. Tragically, Mrs. Rosenbaum died six months after her husband's death. His two children and other family members were severely affected by this incident. At the sentencing hearing for Mr. Jordan, Mr. Rosenbaum's son, Daniel, told the judge, "I can't imagine a punishment that would fit this crime."

The newly elected Mayor of the District of Columbia, Adrian F. Fenty (D), acknowledged the systemic failure that occurred prior to his election to office. He stated, "The entire District of Columbia government stands today as a symbol of outrage at the senseless death of David E. Rosenbaum and, in a joint sense, that there has to be accountability for what happened." He also said, "This was a failure of the government, the most tragic kind of failure the government can have."

The family of Mr. Rosenbaum subsequently filed a $20 million lawsuit against the District of Columbia and Howard University Hospital. Their motive was not financial. Instead, it was directed towards reform. The family subsequently dropped the lawsuit and reached a settlement with the city to create a task force to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rosenbaum's death, with a report to be issued within six months. The Rosenbaum family's desire is to prevent a recurrence of this type of victimization in the future.

The Rosenbaum case illustrates the vital importance of meeting the needs of every victim, every time. The family's efforts echo the words of Robert F. Kennedy,

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope..."