April is a big month for public safety.
Each year, it marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this year, with a theme of “The Truth About Teal,” it kicked off a host of events with an April 5 community gathering at Jacome Plaza outside the Joel D. Valdez Library in downtown Tucson.
The Pima County Attorney’s Office worked for a solid month with numerous partner agencies and non-profit victim support groups to stage an event that featured a proclamation by Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, comments by your County Attorney Laura Conover and others whose work supports survivors of sexual violence.
That kickoff featuring about 100 people clad in denim and teal started a flurry of victim advocacy events and activities that included a “Take Back the Night” event in South Tucson, celebrations for PCAO’s courtroom facilities dogs who make difficult times a bit easier for crime victims – especially the young ones – and the start of National Crime Victims Rights Week to wrap up the month.
Throw in the PCAO Community Safety Awards event that honored five people in our community whose actions were beyond the ordinary in pursuit of public safety and social justice, and a joint press conference with this office and Arizona State Sen. Victoria Steele to mark the passage of a bipartisan law to extend the duration of both emergency and standard court issued Orders of Protection for victims of domestic violence and you have a month of vital victim advocacy.
The theme of “The Truth About Teal” and the goal of the month has been to dispel the many myths and assumptions about the causes and consequences of sexual assault and to talk about it in a frank and supportive way to help victims, and to address root causes of a serious problem in our society.
It is a message that needs to be carried through every month of every year if our community is to make a difference in it.
And that is the fulltime work of our Victim Services Division and the partners who helped make the kickoff event a success, including the Tucson Police Department, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, and CODAC Behavioral Health.
We appreciate the partnerships represented by Detective Mary Pekas of TPD, Carrie Eutizi of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, Katlyn Monje and Kristine Welter Hall of CODAC, Alex Harris of the Arizona Youth Partnership and, of course, our own Virginia Rodriquez and Colleen Phalen of the Victim Services Division and Victoria Otto of our Special Victims Bureau.
While this annual community awareness night promoting mutual support for public safety was not our event, we were happy to support our partners at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and the City of South Tucson in that effort.
April was a big month for PCAO’s courtroom facility dogs, Arrow and Blake.
On April 15, some of our staff and canine pals Blake and Baja had a frolicking time celebrating Arrow’s fourth birthday with a specially prepared doggy-treat cake and gifts. These normally chill four-legged partners, whose job is to calm victims and witnesses amid the stress of courtroom proceedings, really let loose during the birthday bash.
Soothing people immersed in the stress of the criminal justice system is something Blake has done in remarkable fashion over nine years of service to the community.
On April 26, the 11-year old black lab called it a career in a celebration at the Z Mansion in downtown Tucson. It was a day of accolades and celebration for a public servant who truly made a difference.
Promoting public safety is the goal of the Pima County Attorney’s Office. Whether that is done by incarcerating those who present an obvious threat to the community, finding alternative ways to help those whose violations do not pose an ongoing threat, or building community through outreach and assistance, it is what we strive to do.
For that reason, we celebrated the actions of five Pima County residents who went above and beyond to help make the community safe and healthy at the PCAO 2022 Community Safety Awards on April 28.
In an evening event at Mission Garden in Pima County, we gave recognition to:
These acts each exemplify what it means to care about neighbors and community and how it makes such an incredible difference to take positive action when there is a need. We so appreciate all who do this and recognize and honor the incredible sacrifice it sometimes takes.
At the tail end of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week – Friday, April 29 – we joined State Sen. Victoria Steele and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in a news conference to mark the passage of bipartisan legislation that led to additional protection for victims of domestic violence in Arizona. The new law, which came from a combination of bills sponsored by Sen. Steele and her Republican partner in this much-needed legislation Rep. Shawna Bollick, extends the duration of court-ordered Emergency Orders of Protection from one day to one week and Standard Orders of Protection from one year to two years.
This additional protection will give people trying to remove themselves from abusive and dangerous relationships more time to make the changes they need to feel safe from their abusers. It is a bill that is sure to provide comfort and save lives.
So, as you can see, it has been one heck of a month – one that will raise awareness of sexual assault and violent crime, support victims, build community and celebrate courage and empathy.
All in pursuit of a safer, healthier Pima County.
The PCAO Community Newsletter is published and distributed monthly.