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Crime Victims' Rights Week event honors local crime victims and advocates

Brandon Paykamian • Apr 13, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Heather Tranbarger was the 2014 recipient of the Voice for Victims Award for her advocacy work with victims of violent crime. Like many advocates, Tranbarger said her work has been part of a personal fight for justice.

“I was a victim of domestic violence and abuse, and I just want to help support other victims,” Tranbarger said. “I’ve been able to speak about what’s happened to me, and this allows me to help give a voice to victims who are not able to speak for themselves.”

On Thursday morning, she attended this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week event at Memorial Park Community Center to recognize this year’s honoree, retired Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois. This year marked the tenth year of ceremonies honoring crime victims and victim advocates.

The theme of this year’s event, observed by the Board of Parole, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Department of Correction and Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction, was “Expand the Circle — Reach All Victims.”

In recent years, Tranbarger said the region has been working more than ever to “reach all victims,” citing the 2016 founding of the Family Justice Center, an organization that has worked to provide advocacy services for victims of various forms of abuse.

Tranbarger said it’s encouraging to see the local community pull together on issues such as domestic violence through advocacy and the work of law enforcement leaders such as Sirois.

“It’s just incredible that there’s that much support in the community (for victims),” Tranbarger said. “It continues to grow each year.”

Sirois was honored for his support for victim advocacy work and his approach to “community-oriented policing.” He said tackling issues such as violent crime requires the efforts of an entire community, including law enforcement, mental health professionals, medical professionals and local organizations like the Child Advocacy Center and Family Justice Center.

“I am very humbled and grateful to receive this honor,” he said. “Serving crime victims means doing our utmost to bring the perpetrator to justice, but as all of you know as well, that is not the whole story.”

“My mind goes back to the mid-90s, when I was assigned to the department’s criminal investigation division as an investigator,” he added. “While in CID, I regularly worked with juvenile and child abuse cases. When I pause to contemplate that point in my career, I still remember some of those children in particularly heartbreaking circumstances, and wish I could’ve done more.”

But before organizations such as the Family Justice Center came to be, Sirois said the approach remained largely the same as it is today, despite limited resources for victims.

“Serving the victims of crime means being open-minded, patient and professional. It means listening and helping someone in a difficult time,” he said.

In his speech to victims, advocates and state and local law enforcement officers, Sirois honored the legacy of former First Judicial District Attorney Tony Clark, who died last month.

“When he had 101 other things on his plate, you’d always find Tony at planning and subcommittee meetings, as well as presentations before government bodies,” Sirois said. “That’s what victim advocacy meant to him, and he was a major reason for the success the FJC is now experiencing.

“Tony, we miss you, and we thank you for inspiring us with your commitment to these ideals.”

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