Victims’ rights key to law enforcement

Victim Witness Coordinator Shannon Simmons, SVRT Investigator Brian Putzer and Chief Investigator Bill Hellman work make up the Douglas County Victim Witness Unit. Photo special to The R-C

Victim Witness Coordinator Shannon Simmons, SVRT Investigator Brian Putzer and Chief Investigator Bill Hellman work make up the Douglas County Victim Witness Unit. Photo special to The R-C

Whether it’s preventing a crime from happening or assisting someone once a crime has occurred, law enforcement in Douglas County focuses on the survivors of crime.

During the April 18 county commissioners meeting, Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley and District Attorney Mark Jackson addressed National Crime Victim’s Right’s Week and the importance victims have in criminal justice.

“The safety of our community depends on the voices of those victims and our ability to provide justice and to hold people accountable,” said Coverley.

National Crime Victim’s Right Week April 21-27 provides an opportunity to address and educate the rights of victims and the resources available to them and to bring awareness to the great impact and challenges a victim faces.

“The courage and strength it takes to have to relive the incident in a court proceeding and later on is hard to understand, unless you’ve been in that position,” said Coverley. “I am very glad that we are recognizing that and bringing this to the forefront and educating as much as we can.”

Victim Witness Coordinator Shannon Simmons said this year’s theme, “How Would You Help? Options, Services, and Hope for Crime Survivors,” provides a valuable opportunity to shed light on the critical support systems and system responses available to crime victims in Douglas County.

“I think it would be impactful to highlight the work being done by the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Program, which is relatively new, having only begun operation (in Douglas County) in July 2022,” said Simmons.

The Victim Witness Program plays a crucial role in providing advocacy, support and resources to those who have been affected by a crime.

As the victim-witness Coordinator, Simmons helps victims get through court and provides them with additional resources such as counseling and how to give a victim impact statement. She will also sit with them during court hearings.

“It can be really hard to be in a courtroom and have to face their perpetrator, and often times they feel more comfortable sitting with me,” said Simmons. “I also speak their language, and educate them on court proceedings, because sometimes they don’t know or understand the legalese.”

Part of the Victim Witness Program is to make victims aware of their Bill of Rights, which includes being treated with fairness and respect for their privacy and dignity, to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process; to be informed, upon request, of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration and other dispositions of the defendant; and more.

In addition, the Victim Witness Program works with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Unit, Alternative Sentencing and Juvenile Probation, the Family Support Council and other resources in the community to support victims of crimes.

“I am very proud of the collaborative effort that we have here in Douglas County and the coordinated community response to assisting victims of crime,” said Jackson.

Jackson said the Family Support Council is one example of a valuable response team.

“They work with the Sheriff’s Office, first responders and deputies that respond to the domestic violence and sexual assault type cases. We could not do this without the help and support of the Family Support Council, their victim advocates, providing safety for the victims and housing in certain cases,” he said.

Jackson said since the Victim Witness Program was implemented and since he took over as the District Attorney, the conviction rate increased 70 percent on domestic violence cases.

“We had a 10-15 percent conviction rate on domestic violence cases, we are now consistently around 85 percent, which is the highest in the nation and it’s because of this team and the effort we put into the first critical hours a crime occurs,” he said. “This is very important to me, it is important to the Sheriff, it’s important to all the members of this team, and I would hope it is important to members of the community that we have such a great response.”

For more information and resources visit or call the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Program at 775-782-92800. 


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