BOULDER — For the 19th consecutive year, Boulder County on Thursday honored victim advocates with an award ceremony and reception.
“Our community really is rich with victim services,” said Jean Gribben, director of victim services for the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office.
Until the 1980s, crime victims generally were ignored by the criminal justice system, which focused on solving the crime and convicting the offender.
However, President Ronald Reagan changed that in 1982 when he established the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime.
Since then, more than 32,000 laws protecting victims’ rights have been passed and more than 10,000 victim-assistance programs have been established, according to the federal Department of Justice.
People from throughout the community nominate service providers for the award, and District Attorney Mary Keenan chooses five or six winners, Gribben said.
“That’s usually not a chore ... because so many people are doing outstanding work,” Gribben said.
This year’s winners, representing groups from across the community, Gribben noted, included:
• Robin Ericson, director of the Longmont Ending Violence Initiative
• Andy Lattanzi, a part-time employee and a volunteer for the 20th Judicial District probation department
• Billy Perea, who has served for six years on the crime victims compensation board for the district attorney’s office
• Debbie Ramirez of the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence
• Cristi Gordanier, a detective with the Louisville Police Department
• Emily Brookshire, a family support advocate for Blue Sky Bridge.
Susan Ransbottom, coordinator of the Boulder County Domestic Abuse Prevention Project, nominated Ericson for the award for the work she has done as director of LEVI, the Longmont Ending Violence Initiative.
“LEVI would not be the strong and growing organization that exists today without Robin’s dedication,” Ransbottom wrote. “She is constantly coming up with creative ways to educate the community, encourage people to take action against domestic violence and ensure that domestic violence does not remain a ‘family secret’ in Longmont.”
“What’s really important to me is that we find a solution to this and the domestic violence issue goes away,” said Ericson, a former Longmont resident who now lives in Loveland.
LEVI’s purpose is to teach friends, family and coworkers how to help domestic-violence victims, because research shows reaching out to the victims directly is not effective, Ericson said.
Surveys show that 91 percent of domestic-violence victims have told someone about the violence, and 83 percent of victims change their situation after someone from the outside asks them about it, Ericson said.
“That’s significant,” Ericson said.
Lattanzi came to work in victim advocacy in the worst way: He was a crime victim.
His 17-year-old daughter, Ellen, was killed by a drunken driver in 1985. A year and a half later, the Boulder resident began volunteering as a victim advocate for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. For two and a half years, he would respond to crime scenes to help victims, he said.
Later, Lattanzi worked with the families of sexually abused children.
Three years ago, Lattanzi began working with crime victims, offenders and community volunteers in the county’s restorative justice program.
“I really like working in the restorative justice program because it brings together the offenders and the victims,” Lattanzi said. “Victims of crime have different expectations and they deal with it in different ways.”
As a staff member of the probation department, Lattanzi works to collect restitution from juveniles convicted of crimes. Through his efforts, restitution payments have increased from $31,000 in 2001 to more than $100,000 last year, said Walt Czapran, victim services coordinator for the probation department.
Czapran nominated Lattanzi for the award, writing, “The total respect he has for all parties involved in the restorative process, as well as those he interacts with as a collections investigator, has had a tremendous impact on direct victims of crime, secondary victims, the community as a whole and the criminal-justice system.”
A former University of Colorado police officer, Perea has served for six years on the district attorney’s crime victims compensation board, which provides victims with money to help them deal with the effects of crime.
Since 2004, he has been the chairman of the board, which spends $50,000 to $75,000 a month to help crime victims, Perea said. Like Ericson, he wishes the job was not necessary.
“It’s a real shame we have to do that,” Perea said.
Still, he finds it rewarding to help victims, Perea said.
“It’s just a wonderful service we provide for victims,” said Perea, who lives in Louisville. After working in law enforcement for 14 years, Perea opened his own private investigations firm in 1984.
In nominating Perea, Jude Allen, victim compensation director for the district attorney’s office, wrote, “His experience and expertise in the criminal-justice field has been invaluable to our program.”
Much of the money goes to providing therapy for victims, Perea said.
“If we didn’t do that, a lot of victims probably wouldn’t seek therapy,” Perea said.
Because of a state law limiting how long a person can serve on the board, Perea will resign in July. However, he expects to continue being involved in victim advocacy through other boards, he said.
Ramirez works as the emergency response specialist for the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-violence, which means she coordinates staff and volunteers who respond to domestic-violence situations, and she responds to the scenes herself when she is on call once a month.
Ramirez, who lives in Boulder, began volunteering as a court advocate in 2002, she said. She’s been in her current position for about 15 months.
Last year, Ramirez led a training project to teach hospital and clinic staff members about domestic violence.
“Debbie’s hard work and perseverance set up a project that allowed us to complete the most widespread medical training on domestic violence in the county that I know of,” wrote Ransbottom, who nominated Ramirez.
“I really believe in the mission statement of Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-violence,” Ramirez said, explaining the organization’s goal is to end violence and all forms of aggression.
Gordanier was nominated by Blue Sky Bridge’s director of client services, Marci Howell.
“When I learned that Detective Cristi Gordanier was driving to Longmont to support a 7-year-old client at her therapist’s office because it was important for her to see Cristi again, I knew that we should nominate her for the 2005 Outstanding Victim Advocate Award,” Howell wrote.
“We always look forward to seeing her at BSB — we all appreciate the twinkle in her eye, her genuine gift for connecting with children and their families and her tireless pursuit of seeing justice served on their behalf,” Howell wrote in the nominating letter.
Howell also nominated Brookshire for the award, noting, “Emily truly has a gift with children. Her patience is legendary and her interest in each one of them is genuine.
“If you were to ask any child who has been to Blue Sky Bridge during an abuse investigation what they remember about their visit, they would without fail mention Emily,” Howell wrote.
Brookshire also participates in the district attorney’s office’s sexual assault review team, where she is a well-respected voice, District Attorney Mary Keenan wrote in a letter informing Brookshire of the award.
Blue Sky Bridge is a nonprofit organization that “eases the emotional trauma children experience during the investigation and prosecution process of a child-abuse case,” its Web site states.
Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.