EL CENTRO â€“ Honoring National Crime Victimâ€™s Rights Week, the Imperial County District Attorneyâ€™s Office sponsored its first annual 5K Walk/Run Saturday morning at Southwest High Schoolâ€™s track field.
Registration began bright and early with over fifty participants, accompanied by friends and family, who received a t-shirt and water bottle.
Kimberly Gustafson, director of the Victim Witness Program, said Saturdayâ€™s event was mainly to commemorate 30 years of the county’s Victim Witness Program in addition to honoring Victimâ€™s Rights Week which extends from April 10 â€“ 16.
â€œThis is the perfect way to celebrate and bring awareness to the Imperial Valley,â€ said Gustafson. â€œWe are very pleased with the outcome and hope to have a bigger attendance next year.â€
According to Gustafson, the number of affected victims in the Valley has increased since from 500 in previous years to approximately 750 victim cases.
Joining the walk and holding a banner honoring her son, was Yulil Alonso Garza, the founder of MAG Coalition and mother to Martin Alberto Garza, 17, who was killed in 2013 as a result of violence.
El Centro resident Ruby Garcia was joined by her mother Susana Salgado, and her three children. and they all walked in support of the District Attorneyâ€™s Office where her mother is employed.
â€œI know this happens in Imperial County and we need to bring awareness and let people know the problem exists and get the community involved,â€ said Garcia.
Last year, according to Gustafson, the DAâ€™s Office received approximately 750 victim cases, involving both adults and children, of which the main cause was domestic violence.
â€œThe system is designed to protect the rights of victims,â€ said Sid Hester, an El Centro resident. â€œUntil recently, in our system, victims were second. We as a community need to support these families and victims. Isnâ€™t this what this is all about?â€ Â Hester was accompanied by his wife, Liz Hester.
The walk/run was followed by a pancake breakfast complete with coffee, juice and water.
The county’s Victim Witness Protection Program is designed to help victims rebuild their lives, learn about victims’ legal rights, and options of crime, access victim compensation, develop a safety plan, and how to navigate the criminal justice and social service system.[envira-gallery id=”75282″]