If you are a victim of crime, know that there is someone around who can help you if you want it.
James McMurray has been poking around the Key Peninsula area since April, armed with answers, guidance and a hankering to become a regular presence and a mechanism of bridging the gap between victims and the services they may need.
McMurray is an outreach advocate for victims of crime who works with the Multicultural Self-Sufficiency Movement (MSM), a nonprofit organization, part of a network of groups within the Pierce County Crime Victim Network.
McMurray was at the Key Center Library last month trying to get the word out about his services and matrix of helpful friends.
The MSM is funded to provide direct services to people who are victims of general crimes: “not what law enforcement calls ‘special crimes,’ like rape, sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence,” he said. “Historically, victims of those crimes have programs that are developed and funded. Our program was created to assist victims of the other crimes.”
By scouring newspapers and data available to him through police information systems, McMurray said that he has a nose for areas in need of vital services.
“There are certainly issues of theft. There are DUI injury accidents out here, and there are robberies. We believe that there is a need on the peninsula and therefore, we want people to know that we are available,” he said.
Typically, people are looking for information like whom to contact, how they get a police report and what they need to have to do next after a crime has been committed, he said.
“People have to pay their bills after they’ve been hurt. Many are left wondering what’s going to happen to them and if they are going to get any help. We can work with them to do that. We don’t have money for them directly, but we can help create links so that can happen,” McMurray said.
The other thing he does is listen. He helps victims process and deal with the trauma and the stress of the crime, and what may surface later in life because of it.
McMurray said that his advocacy network has been successful in helping people in Lakewood and Tacoma. He admitted to being low-key, and is trying to get the word out through agencies and individuals who may know potential victims.
“What I have done initially out here is to contact agencies that are already providing social services because they’re not doing what we are doing. I’ve connected with the Children’s Home Society, Key Peninsula Community Services program, the food bank and the library,” he said.
McMurray is hopeful that through activities like his library-based forum, he will slowly educate the community and become a beacon of hope and resolve. He said the best way to start the process is with a call to the crisis information and referral line at (800) 346-7555.
“When somebody calls our 24/7 number, they will connect with a crime victim advocate in their area and get help to receive all the free resources that are available to them,” he said.
McMurray will be hosting his next public event from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Sept. 12, at the Key Peninsula Library, 8905 Key Peninsula Highway North.
For information, visit piercecountycrime.com or call McMurray at (253) 439-0142.
• 24-hour helpline: Language support/translation services providing crisis intervention and information.
• Information and referral: Answer any questions or put people into contact with others that can best serve them.
• Advocacy: They help crime victims communicate their needs with other services, people, landlords, agencies, and the criminal justice system.
• Legal and System services: Help with answering questions concerning the progress of a police investigation, questions regarding legal processes or court scheduling questions.
• Help with victim impact statements, and help seeking restitution.
• Courtroom support: Offer caring and trained advocates that will attend court with you to provide emotional support, as well as look after your rights as a victim.
• Crime compensation: We will help you apply for and understand Crime Victims Compensation in Washington state.
• Emergency Services: Help locate needed services.
• Support Groups: Groups of people that have experienced trauma can help in the recovery process. Homicide and suicide support groups, among others, are available.