An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Seymour: Irv, thank you for being part of the OVC Oral History Project. When and how did you first get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Waller: In the 1970s, I was researching and teaching at the University of Toronto in Canada. Just finished a book on the ineffectiveness of the prison parole system in Canada and, decided to do a project looking at why people were sent to prison in the first place and got funding to do a fairly large scale set of interviews with the general public and with victims of crime in Toronto to understand what they wanted from the justice system and it looked a lot at the impact of crime on them.
And that's how I really came across victims -- doing in-depth interviews about what they experienced as the result of crime and what they wanted in terms of prevention and protection and what they wanted from the justice system which was, more than anything else, reparation and some way of stopping this happening. And that, led me to a NATO-funded meeting that Emilo Viano now at the American University organized in, Bellagio, which is in an incredibly beautiful spot in northern Italy. And he brought together about 50 people who were from all over the world who were interested for various reasons in victims and I chaired the group on surveys of victims, quantitative research trying to look at the victimization surveys, trying to look at the impact of crime on victims, trying to just measure things to do with victims.
So there was our group doing the major stuff on violence against women-- the stuff on sexual assault or those sorts of surveys and there we were talking in our room about these surveys and how more of them could be done in the future and how they could be made more relevant and in the next door room were people from the Transition House, sexual assault movement, and some of the first victim assistance, centers in the United States and in another room were people talking about victimology. I actually didn't understand what they were talking about.
Benjamin Mendolsohn, who's often seen as the father of victimology, he was there. And I actually ended up translating for him from... from French, he was Romanian, and French was the only language that he had in common with anybody there so I translated for him and I really did not understand what he was saying. But that... that brought together, a network, a personal network that has grown from there on. And, many of those people went to the Boston Victimology Conference in '76 and, which I didn't...I was supposed to go to it and didn't. And then in '79 the victim... international victimology movement had held a major meeting in Munster in Germany.
Uh, Dr. Marlene Young gave two papers at... at that. Colleen O'Blat was there and again I was chairing one of the, I think it was to do with compensation and reparation and also giving papers primarily about prevention. And I was asked by them to come to the NOVA Conference in Philadelphia and was then asked to join the Board of NOVA and, those next six years were a, sort of a double track, I would describe it. So I was on the NOVA Board, which was for me an incredibly exciting experience. These very high energy people from the United States who were bringing their own revolution to happen and incredibly friendly and a series really of pioneers fighting to... together.
And I learned about victim assistance and victim rights and I --that has marked the rest of my life but that also, I was I guess envious of this movement in the United States. This movement towards victim rights, in particular, which was a kind of obvious thing academically but these people actually engaged in it. And I remember some of the meetings that were held and the, um, in the Hill talking about coming up with a... a series of rights the, what was later to become the Constitutional Amendment movement.
Now that was also the time when in '82 at the Tokyo Victimology Conference, International Victimology Conference, where Dr. Marlene Young also gave two major papers, I persuaded Leroy Lamborn, the Law School at Wayne State University, that he should help me and we should get together to draft a... an international charter on victims' rights. And I remember in our hotel room, he and I with whiskey of course, discussing this idea and what should go into it. And Leroy Lamborn was always very careful, the law professor had to have the thing crossed and T's crossed and the I's dotted. And really what we decided to do was to take the rights, the so-called rights for victims, which were really principles of justice and action for victims in... well from states like New York and Michigan and put these into some sort of proposal that we then took to the Secretary of the United Nations.
And they say, "Oh, yes this seems quite interesting. It has to be both victims of crimes and victims of abusive power." We didn't really know what abusive power was but we sort of said... said yes and that developed into... came back to the NOVA Board with a proposal that they adopted. We went to the World Society Victimology Board, they adopted and then we began a movement of it went to the American Bar Association, Susan Hillenbrand and we began an international movement of non-governmental agencies around the victim issue and that led to support from, particularly the French Government, France being basically the only country that actually gives victims legal rights in the courtroom so they were interested in it.
And then we got the Canadian Government interested and that's about the time of the, that the President's Task Force on Victims, Lois Herrington. And she was then the head of the, I think the Office of Victims of Crime, and she decided that she was going to be a supporter of that. I remember her coming to the United Nations Congress in '85 and speaking to it and it got adopted there and is now a major human rights instrument that has had a ripple effect, probably not so much in the United States but in many, many other countries and is clearly a founding part of the victim rights within the tribunal in Rwanda and the International Criminal Court.
But I see the international stuff as having a... a low profile impact on much of what has happened in the United States. They're giving, I think, some reinforced energy to many of the leaders in the United States like Marlene Young and also getting people to think more about whether the United States wants to be the leader, wants to be the best and I think it's provided some healthy competition as countries in, what France, with uh, really ahead of the United States today in terms of representation in courts and for the less violent victims in terms of reparation.
England is really far ahead of the United States in terms of compensation for victims of crime and I'm using just those as two examples. And the United States hasn't, well it's rescinded its signature for the International Criminal Court but I think as that moves ahead, we're suddenly going to see not just the International Criminal Court but many other countries adopting a court system where victims have not only support assistance, information and protection but also have standing and reparation and an ability to defend their... their... their interests.
Seymour: That's great. When you first got involved in the field, Irv, can you describe to someone who... who obviously, someone who was not there, what it was like for victims but also the context of the eras, which would be the '70s for you and how that affected what you were trying to do?
Waller: Well I think you really have to go back to the Presidential Commissions in the United States and the --in the '60s. The three Presidential Commissions that... that followed the assassinations of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and... and Martin Luther... Martin Luther King. And the Katzenbach Commission was the first of those and that's where the first National Crime Victimization Surveys were... were invented and that, in my view, was really the discovery, in a systematic way of... of the victim because before that we used to police some court data and the victim wasn't visible. But in those surveys which were really designed to come up with a better measure of crime and the cost of crime, they were finding out the numbers of victims, which were staggering numbers of victims, and they were able to show the impact, at least in cost terms in those days and they showed the extent to which the victims didn't have confidence in the... in the police and the court system because they weren't reporting.
They suddenly showed what in these large scale surveys that the relatively low proportion of people who were reporting to the police which is, if anything, was gradually got worse since then. So those were very, very important. And the Katzenbach Commission, I think, was also important because they said, "We've got to find a way of getting more victims to report and cooperate with this justice system as witnesses." That combined with the creation of LEAA in the late '60s with these mammoth amounts of money going into really recreating law enforcement and prisons they were, a lot of that money was going into... just bringing the United States up to modern standards in terms of knowing how many people there were in prisons and in those days the United States didn't know how many people there were in local jails something that basically every other country did.
But they, ... that Commission said we've got to worry about how we get people to report and they gave the information about who these folks were. And then LEAA was looking around for ways to get more victims to the court on time and that's where this money went out for these projects, the initial projects, the Victims' Service Agency in New York City and other... other projects in Arizona. And these were exciting, really exciting people involved with NOVA at the time and those were the people by the time... the end of the '70s, they were old hands. So the Victims' Service Agency in New York City had already demonstrated that it could save millions and millions of dollars, I don't recall the figures, six, seven million dollars in police overtime because they were helping victims who were going to be witnesses in the court turn up and be... be welcomed.
And I remember the stuff from Arizona which was a lot about mediation, so trying to bring the sort of precursor of restorative justice, bringing people together, the victims and offenders to... to talk about France's. Those were also the period, I'm talking the '70s now, where the first programs, police programs, which... which had social workers or to respond to domestics to, about wife cases and there... there were a series of these, I forget exactly how many LEAA funded, but there were seven or eight and they were as much about getting the justice system to work correctly. So, you know, how do we... how do we get more of these? They weren't really victim interested, they were justice interested, you know, were prosecutors, were police officers, we've got to get more victims there.
So that was some of it but the, what the... when they started doing those, they discovered that victims were,... hadn't just lost the property that was stolen, weren't just physically injured but were also traumatized so the trauma began to come up. They also discovered the hardship that people suffered when cooperating with the police and the courts, the so-called secondary victimization. So, and... and that was discovered by people actually delivering a service but, in my view, reinforced by these... these large scale surveys. I mean, the United States has done the National Crime Survey dates from 1972. There are 30 years of victimization surveys involving 60,000 households or more. An incredible data... databank that was mainly being used for crime trends.
But some of those people who did the interviews, for instance, were discovering victims who'd never, that the courts just saw them as people, as pawns, that were property that was going to be produced in the court for witnesses and they suddenly discovered there's people here and these people have, they have suffered and they suffer again when they cooperate with the system and they have an interest in this system. They're not just there to enable the state, the prosecutor, to get a conviction. They also have some interest in whether there's a conviction or not. They have some interest in their own safety if the person's gonna be released. They have an interest in getting their property back or getting reparation. All of those things were being discovered.
Seymour: This is like such a history lesson for me, it's great. Thinking back to the '70s or maybe looking at the work you were doing with research and certainly the international venues, what do you think was the greatest challenge that you and your colleagues faced in affecting change?
Waller: I think it's the police and the justice system. These are incredibly entrenched bureaucracies. The law enforcement agencies have a quite often getting your man, of enforcing the law and that's what they're about. They don't see themselves as first an aid to victims. They don't see, they arrive, they want to know which way the guy went, what he looked like, and they want to get out of there because their job is to process as many offenders as they can and hopefully get as many convictions as they can and they, this is still true today. They... they don't, as an agency, really care about victims and the same is true in the courts.
The judges, the prosecutors are there in a... in, to do justice and justice means, the state or as criminal justice, it's justice for the criminal whether you look at that as weak justice or as strong justice, it's justice for the criminal. And what they're trying to do is to decide whether the person is guilty and then convict him and sentence him. And that's, uh, it grew maybe for good reasons out of protection of... of human rights in two or 300 hundred years ago, but to get that system to realize that, in fact, crime is about three major interests. Yes, there's an accused or an offender. Yes, the state has an interest but also the victim has a real interest.
That's... that is a major battle and I think what you see internationally is that that's hard to change. Yeah, you can have a few volunteers working with a prosecutor to try and mitigate the hardship that the victim experiences going through that system. Yes, you can occasionally get in a police department a... .a victim unit which is sort of also there to cushion the victim against the main problems that they're experiencing in the police department. But it's very difficult to get the fundamental change. This, it is my view why the French system is particularly exciting. I'm not saying that it's perfect. I'm not saying that French police treat victims in anyway like they should do, but once you get to the court the victim has a... has standing, has a lawyer. The victim can appeal a charge decision saying that that charge isn't the right charge, it should have been higher.
So you can go from the judge who took the decision to accept the charge to a... an appeal judge. You can appeal whether the person should be released or not. You can in sentencing you can ask for reparation. You can bring your own evidence for reparation and through... through asking for reparation, you can look after a lot of your... your safety issues And I think we're a long way today from getting that. Yes, in the United States you have several states where you can allocate, but this is actually very limited and if it gets appealed to the Supreme Court, well it... it's clear that there are no real victim rights at the... in your Constitution as it stands at the moment.
So the things that the victim movement has achieved in the United States (interviewer sneezes) are still, in my view, largely on the margin. And 30 ago it was clear that one had to get the police to realize that victims were their privileged clients and that we had to get the courts to realize that victims were a party to that process and I think we... we've still got a long way to go. I think the International Criminal Court is incredibly exciting for the world victim movement because for the first time we have legislation and rules and we, they will set up a Victim Witness Unit, which will bring this stuff to life which will be part of that process. It really says the victim is part of that process.
Seymour: Could you explain to people watching or reading this, what, the Internet, what kind of cases you're talking about?
Waller: Okay. The International Criminal Court is a particular set of very extreme circumstances. So these are basically the genocides, the war crimes, you're looking at situations where a government in power at the time has massacred a whole series of people for whatever reason, because they were the wrong race or the wrong political views or something like that. It means large numbers of women who were raped, multiple times, and one can go on from there but it's actually four categories of offenses.
But what the International Criminal Court means is that those victims can go to a body who will listen to them and if that body, the prosecutor for that body, prosecutor's office decides that their... this actually happened or that it's possible to prove that this happened, then a case will be started with an investigation that would look somewhat like an investigation in the United States in a normal crime of murder or whatever except that there are multiple numbers. But the major difference between the procedure in a murder trial or a multi-murder trial or the Oklahoma Bombing, for instance or the World Trade Center incidents, the main difference is that victims have standing. So victims will not just be used as witnesses.
There will be support provided, victim assistance, that's the more American term for it, so there will be people who are there to support the person through the process, friend or advocate for the victim. But in addition to that, the victims have a right to a lawyer and to participation and to claim reparation. And that, in my view, is an incredible success for the international victim movement and very much inspired by what has gone on in the United States in the last thirty years and particularly, I think, inspired by the... by the Presidential Task Force, by its appendix talking about a... an amendment to your Constitution but I think also the... that the substandard content of the of the Presidential Task Force, talking about what should happen for victims.
I think there's sections of the statute on the International Criminal Court that have been inspired by the OVC system which for me is the same incredible way of being able to raise money from offenders, from rich offenders.
Seymour: The VOCA... the VOCA fund?
Waller: The VOCA fund.
Waller: The International Criminal Court has a trust fund which is very similar. So the Saddam Husseins of this world, if a case was brought his funds can be seized and put into this fund. I'm sure it won't be easy but they could be. And the governments who have tolerated some of these atrocious acts can also be... be used for that fund like they were in the... at the end of the Second World War, in the Nuremberg and Tokyo trial. So where victims of those sorts of atrocities are still receiving funding from the... from the Second World War.
Seymour: Again looking at the context of the international work you've done, have there been any failures that you can articulate?
Waller: Well, I think the failure is the failure that we have not succeeded in mainstreaming the victim issue as yet. I think it's a failure in not achieving it by 2003. It's not, I'm actually hopeful that we will achieve it. If one looks what has happened, sort of the initial, if you go back to the '60s where Marjorie Fry basically persuaded New Zealand and then later England to create a compensation program that led to compensation programs in states like California and New York and the States. So that the first recollection these were token payments.
And you look at how today in England the-- a victim could receive over and above their medical expenses, because in England medical health care is provided universally, a victim can receive as much as, well a million dollars. I think that's getting to be real compensation. If you look at the, what they could get in the '60s and what they still get in some U.S. states and even in the Province in which I live in in Canada, where the maximum amount might be the order of $15,000 U.S. dollars, I mean that... so you can see that we can succeed. So when you get that level of money being paid in compensation program, you can also see that there's a thing called the European Framework Decision, a complicated phrase, but what that means is that every government, every country in Europe and every, in the European Union and every country that wants to join the European Union, now has to meet certain standards for victims.
And these standards-- that they have appeared at time to achieve it and these standards include victim assistance, they include a significant level of representation in the courts, in getting legal advice, they include minimal levels of compensation. So these standards now are universal in those European countries. I, my perspective is that each of the standards in that European document are as good or better than the best U.S. states at this point in time. So I think this is, it's significant. So that's a success achieved.
Now those achievements have occurred in the last few years but the result of things that were going on over... over really 15, 20, 30-year period and those sorts of successes and the International Criminal Court all give me confidence that we're going to... we're going to achieve a lot more. Now, to see basically, for most victims, they're never going to get further than seeing a police officer because the, so roughly one in two victims on average report to the police for the average crime, okay, for murder the majority do.
Um, but for the average crime you're talking about one in two. And then you see a huge drop off between when you went to the police and whenever it gets to... to courts. And I think the major challenge for the victim movement is how to get police agencies who say that they're supportive of victims to change their way of... of working so that they do, in fact, become... become first in aid for victims. That they do, in fact, have sufficient time to listen to the victim not just about the particulars you need to know when an offense was committed, but they're able to... to orient victims, to services that exist in the community, to inform them of compensation, to tell them about the services.
Now that doesn't sound revolutionary in the United States when so many states already have some statement like that in their state Constitutional Amendment, but this is not happening in practice. There's no remedy for the, in most instances, for the victim who doesn't get that sort of service. So I, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police has from '83, they've adopted a series of guidelines about how victims should be treated that include the discretion for a victim to have a female officer in sexual assault cases, if it was possible; maybe not in all rural areas but in all cities it should be possible. Well those are... those principles are great.
The implementation is a long way and this is not just training, this is police agencies really deciding that this has to be the way that they're going to do business and that yes, they're involved in law enforcement but they're involved in law enforcement and respect for the interests of victims and it's not a huge cost. It's a question of how you get them to build that into the procedures when the officer responds to a 911 call and arrives at the house or the apartment, the balance that that officer has to give between the enforcement aspects and being reasonable to the victim. It's a question of ensuring that there is some unit in police departments. And I'm not just talking about volunteers. I'm talking about the very senior level in the Chief's office, right by the police office... the Chief's office.
Some sort of unit that will... will be there to... when the victim does not get the consideration they should do, that the victim can call that office and get action. And this is going to require changes in police acts or those that... that govern operation of policing, it's going to require Police Chiefs who decide that this is a priority and not just small police departments but the big police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. They have to... it's going to be interesting to see if Mr. Bratton in Los Angeles will... will make concern for victims part of his reform regime to get the Los Angeles Police Department working better.
Seymour: If you could identify one accomplishment of our field in the past 30 years, just one, what would it be?
Waller: Well I think the UN Declaration is undoubtedly the most important because it's a... it's there and it affects the whole world. And it has a ripple effect on the United States because it enables people to say well there is... there is an international instrument that recognizes that victims are harmed and... and need support and rights. It's very clear about information for victims. It's clear about standing for victims whenever the personal concerns of victims are affected, they should have a right to present and have their views considered and, in my view, that makes it clear that they should have standing in the court. It's clear on compensation from the state. It's clear on restitution. It's clear on services not just from the victim advocacy movement but from... from police, from hospitals-- it talks very explicitly about guidelines.
Um, it talks about how victims of... of the genocides and apartheid how it should be... should be dealt with and it... it's being described as a Magna Carta for victims and I think that's what it is. It's a Magna Carta for victims and it's referred to all over the world when politicians decide that they are, in fact, going to do something for victims. It's not a magic bullet that gets changed on its own but politicians who... who want to create a better world for victims refer to it. They are concerned about whether their domestic legislation and practice program is consistent with it.
Um, and it has... it has led to, well the International Criminal Court, which I've mentioned and the two previous courts, the one in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Its led to a handbook and manual that can be used for training in the United States or elsewhere. I think it's the handbook is probably the best text for for training that exists. I mean it's not the only document that should be used and that was, of course, in major part developed by Marlene Young and people associated with... with NOVA developed with funding from the Office for Victims of Crime when Aileen Adams was the head of the Office for Victims of Crime. And it was a joint project of the two most unlikely partners that you could think of the Dutch Government, which allows marijuana, prostitution's legal and all that, there's made... one for a long time is deliberately reducing the number of people incarcerated and the United States with increasing the number of cops, increasing the number of people incarcerated, very retributive system.
And these... these two countries came together around the victim stuff to produce these... the... this handbook which-- well-- I... .I use in teaching courses in Canada because there aren't other texts yet. And it takes the simple principles of that UN Declaration. I think the UN Declaration is also important because it balances. It's the first time that the governments of the world, including the United States who is very active on-- Lois Herrington and... and the, your Department of Justice were very active in pushing it, to get it adopted. It provides in the international area, uh, area a balance because there were all these rights for offenders and, uh, and... and guidelines in law enforcement and how prosecutors should operate.
And suddenly you get a document that states in simple terms.. two pages... what should happen for victim. And I see it as something that's going to keep people coming back. So I hope you're going to get a Constitutional Amendment here but until you do, the UN document get... gets used in this country by people as one argument for achieving, for bringing victims in from the cold, from bringing a system of blind justice. I think you have this wonderful picture of Madame Justice blinded and changing that situation.
Seymour: Great. Irv, what advice would you give to professionals and volunteers who have more recently joined the field who weren't around in the '70s?
Waller: Well I, my main advice would be, yes, do your job, but get involved at the policy level. There has to be system change. One has to, I've said it earlier, you... you, victim - the rights and interests of victims have to be mainstreamed. We have to do justice to the support and protection of victims. And yes, the individuals who you help if you're coming into this movement as a victim advocate or a sex assault crisis center or a court or a parole hearing or whatever it is, it's fantastic that you're going to devote time and energy. I hope somebody's going to pay you for doing that but you have to work also for policy change.
And policy change would include the Constitutional Amendment but it would include... you don't have to wait for that. It would include changes in legislation at the state level and particularly to ensure that if you have some, if there is legislation or there is a Constitution, like Michigan, for instance, that has an incredible-- it sets out exactly what should happen for victims, but there's no remedy. So getting --trying to get a remedy for that and, of course, money.
You in this country are able to pay for the incarceration of 25 percent of all the people incarcerated across this planet. And I think if you're able to do that, you should be able to find the money to make sure that people who are the victims of crime are compensated adequately, that the people who work in victim assistance are not all volunteers, that they are paid for the sort of job that they're doing at reasonable levels. And I think they should be looking at-- I think the person who's working with the battered wife or the murder victim or the rape victim, it should be equal pay for equal work and that means that you should all the time get salaries and the sorts of things that for instance people in law enforcement get or lawyers get.
This may be a radical view, but that is my view.
Seymour: That's great.
Waller: And it's only when we begin to pay the people who work for and with victims the sorts of amounts that we pay for people to work for and maybe against offenders that we're going to have some sort of real recognition of and real respect for victims. And I think it's at the policy level, it's finding this balance between legislative change.
So, yes, the Amendment because that's going to give you a remedy that's gonna ensure a face-off between offender rights and victim rights at the Supreme Court but then at other levels at the state level getting the legislation, etcetera. But the legislation is only one part of it. One also has to move money into where it needs to be spent.
Seymour: Okay. (Change Tape)
Seymour: Everyone's favorite question, Irv, what vision do you have for the future of this field?
Waller: The vision for the future, well I would like to see this movement combine two basic objectives, to face two basic challenges. The first challenge we've talked about a lot and that is basically ensuring that we're doing justice to the support and protection of victims. And that means... well like the OVC follow-up report on the Presidential Task Force which really, it talks about mainstreaming victim issues into policing and into what prosecutors and judges do and not... into other areas like what happens in hospitals.
But as vital as that challenge is the challenge to reduce victimization. And in the last ten years in the United States you've seen some reduction in levels of crime but you're still, on average, the rates of victimization in this country are two to three times what they were in the '60s. That's when the Presidential Commissions sounded an alarm about crime and violence in the United States. So in the last ten years there have been some very exciting reductions of crime in major cities, not just New York -- from Boston, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Washington. Washington where they reduced the number of police officers, New York where they increased the number of police officers.
Now some of those reductions were due to your economy doing so well. They were due maybe in -- to the age distribution of the population and some of them may have been due to some deliberate actions. What Mr. Giuliani thinks or Mr. Bratton thinks deliberate actions are very different from what I see or what the National Crime Prevention Council sees. What I see is that people began to realize that the reduction of crime was an important objective and that justice wasn't the only thing that one had to do about crime and so they began to focus on how they could get policing to be more crime reduction-oriented and not just enforcement-oriented and they also looked at how they could bring in the groups that work with young people and how they could help victims avoid repeat victimization, particularly in property offenses because that's where success can happen.
Now I think the victim movement in the United States has to fight for policies that work, for policies that reduce the murder rates sustainably and keep them coming down, for policies that reduce the levels of sexual assault, that reduce the number of people killed by criminal actions on the road and that reduce the property crimes that affect so many people, the burglaries, the car thefts and reduce assaults. Now the exciting thing is that the UN has just adopted a document on prevention of crime of which the essential elements in that document are that we have a international knowledge base of how to do it.
And most of that knowledge comes from the United States, from experiments that are being done here, from research that is being done here the research from the victimization surveys about... about the sorts of factors that put people more at risk, these massive surveys of young people showing the experiences, the negative life experiences, often victimization as young kids, that occurred before their involvement in persistent offending. The projects that have shown that if you keep young people at risk and... and you can get them to complete school, if you do stuff about bullying, Columbine, if you do stuff about bullying in schools, you can reduce victimization and you can reduce it for kids in schools and you can reduce violence on those kids going to the next stages and there are other examples.
The state of Washington, its Public Policy Institute, actually has a lead table that shows you which things work to reduce crime and which things are cost-effective. And the unfortunate reality is that the United States, like many other Western Nations, has been investing in the wrong things and not investing in the things that work. The British government, with Blair has taken some of these things that have worked on a very small scale in the United States and spread them across the country. So they now have a legislation that makes every city responsible for crime reduction and that means every city has to bring schools, housing, social services, the victim support people, they have to get together, they have to do a diagnosis using American-invented victimization survey, using American-invented longitudinal surveys, using American invented mapping techniques.
They have to understand where the crime problems are, what caused them and they have to look at how they can intervene, strategic law enforcement, invented by a Boston police working with Harbor Operations Cease Fire, how you actually target the difficult persistent offenders at... at looking at how you can go into the neighborhoods where young males are dropping out of school and getting involved in gangs and getting involved... so how you can work with those young... young people not particularly through law enforcement, but you can threaten them with law enforcement, but providing options, incentives for them to go to school. American-invented programs that were researched here, quantum opportunities, um, it... working in burglary reduction programs, pioneered by LEAA in Seattle in the 1970s, replicated in England... the British thought they invented it, but it's exactly what you invented in the 1970s which got a 50 percent reduction in burglaries.
So doing those sorts of programs. And I think this has to become part of the victim movement. I'm not sure whether crusade is the appropriate term but a part of the victim movement's efforts and a priority within this envelope of crime reduction, of crime prevention, of making it a target for the United States to have the lowest crime rates of the G-7 countries. To have lower crime rates than... than England or France and we're talking primarily lower violent crime rates because that's where you're so much worse than other countries but also property crime.
So to engage to put your incredible energy, your incredible resources and the knowledge that you've actually already accumulated into that I think is a very important thing for the victim movement to say we're... we're speaking on behalf of victims, we want less victimization and we want our country to have the lowest rates of victimization in the world, we want to use our skills to make that happen. And I think... I would almost like to see, as part of your Constitutional Amendment, a right to protection. I know that political it's probably not feasible, you have to do it in other ways, but it has to become part of what you're doing here and with a very major emphasis on the prevention of violence within the home because this is not only a women's issue, this is ultimately everybody's issue because if you can reduce violence in the home, both wife battering and child abuse. This will be the single most important factor in draining the swamp of street and other other violence. It will also be a major contributor to bringing up kids who are less prone to crime generally.
Seymour: Right. Is there any... anything else I didn't ask you about, Irv, that you want to add to our conversation?
Waller: I think, I just want to come back just briefly to the international area. You asked me about what people can do who are starting in this movement and my response was well not only do a fantastic job, but policy. And I focused on policy within the United States and I think I was right in saying that, but you are the world's most powerful nation at this point in time. I have no idea whether China will overtake you or what will happen but, at the moment, you're the world's most powerful nation.
You're the world's richest nation. You've got the most knowledge, the most skills, the most--a whole bunch of wonderful things and I think it's incredibly important that you share that and continue to share that with other... other countries.
Seymour: Do we do that enough now?
Waller: I think you have done it at particular points. Aileen Adams when she was the head of Office for Victims of Crime really took that to heart and started cooperation with the Netherlands and has had an influence on other countries. But I think it's incredibly important for you to take your skills in the victim area and help countries who have even higher levels of violence than... than you do and develop... help those countries develop the sorts of services at the policing level and in the courts and in the community and in hospitals that can help those victims. And I think it's also important that you engage internationally in policy change.
As a non-American, I find it disturbing when you are so powerful that you're not as involved in the Convention on the Rights of the Child that has many things to do with child abuse and that you were major contributors to the document but in terms of action on it, you're not that clear on the International Criminal Court. I understand some of the concerns but if the United States engaged as uh, with the people trying to develop it, they would influence it, in my view, in the way that they want.
But you have to in Rwanda or in Yugoslavia or wherever it is, you have to find the time and money to use your skills not just to-- within the borders of this country but also outside.
Seymour: That's great. That concludes our interview.
Seymour: Thank you so much.
|This project was supported by Grant Number 2002-VF-GX-0009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.|