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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at a White House Ceremony for the Observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week


Welcome to the White House. And may I say I'm very pleased to see so many members of the House and the Senate here today to pay their respects to these honorees. I want to thank them for their outstanding support -- Republicans, Democrats alike -- on this whole concept of National Crime Victims' Week. It's always a pleasure to see our able Attorney General, who will do the honors in a minute, and in my view, he's doing an outstanding job for our country.

I'm delighted that I just signed the Presidential proclamation declaring this to be National Crime Victims' Rights Week. And I want to thank you, all of you out there who work so diligently in public service and the private sector on behalf of the victims of crime.

I'm glad to see so many of you could come -- some from far away -- come here to Washington. It's good to see Howard and Connie Clery again, and some of the others who have worked with the White House over the past year. Howard and Connie embody the power of voluntarism, the power of the physically challenged, and the power of a just cause -- the campaign to build an America where every victim of every crime is treated with the dignity and the compassion that they deserve.

Shortly after I took office, the Attorney General came to the Oval Office and introduced me to the seven recipients of last year's awards. And today it's an honor for me to stand with you again as we commemorate the great strides that we've made toward preserving the rights of our victimized citizens.

In the not-so-distant past, crime victims often became the forgotten people, subjected to continued victimization by the criminal justice system. The victims' rights movement really emerged in the seventies, when concerned Americans like one of today's honorees, South Carolina's Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, took part in a grassroots effort to assist victims of rape and family violence.

And the past 8 years have seen a new emphasis placed on crime victims issues: landmark Federal legislation, task forces led by the President and the Attorney General, 45 States where a victims bill of rights is now in force, and a nationwide expansion of victim assistance and compensation programs. My administration has continued to build on this foundation. We've backed the Attorney General's call for full implementation of the Victim-Witness Protection Act. We've obtained reauthorization for the 1984 Victims of Crime Act, extending the innovative fund that turns the tables on the bad guys by taking the criminal's money and using it to assist and compensate the criminal's victims. Last year, for the first time, deposits into the fund exceeded the legislative cap. And for 1990, 5 million will be available for vital services to victims of crime, million over the 1989 level. Another example of how we're protecting victims is the fact that in securities fraud and similar financial crimes we're regularly seeking to recover funds to compensate the victims of those offenses.

Through the Office for Victims of Crime, we've also recently established new victim assistance programs serving Native Americans in 17 States, because when violence strikes, every American should have a place to turn for help. Some of the best successes have come about as a result of partnership -- cooperation between Federal, State, and local authorities; teamwork between public and private efforts. One of today's heroes is Mimi Olson, who has devoted 23 years to channeling victim assistance and other services for Native American children on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation.

And you have Federal partners, like the victim-witness coordinators in the U.S. Attorneys offices who not only arrange emergency services for Federal victims' assistance but also educate prosecutors about the needs of these people -- Federal victims' needs.

And all of these efforts are important, but we also know that the best defense is a good offense. We're determined to stop crime at its source, and that means tougher laws, like the stringent drunk-driving law Sandra Heverly helped enact in Nevada. And it means fighting back -- community patrols, like the one pioneered in Boston by Milton Cole.

Milton, in recent months, I visited your neighborhood counterparts in Houston, Kansas City, Santa Anna, and right across the river over here in Virginia. And like you, they got angry, and they got organized, and they got results.

Community results have also been magnified by the power of television and the work of yet another crime victim who refused to be further victimized: John Walsh, of ``America's Most Wanted.'' John says, ``Look, I was victimized once. My heart has been broken. And I believe you take a stand and fight back not as a vigilante but through the system. You figure out a way to do it with some dignity and some integrity, and you fight back.'' Those are his words. John's video version of the old post office wanted posters have received national exposure, and the results speak for themselves: over 100 criminals nabbed in under 2 years -- 7 of the FBI's ``10 Most Wanted.'' And just this month, John's program helped earn the conviction of a coldblooded killer who had eluded authorities for 18 years.

The message and the popularity and effectiveness of this broadcast is simple: The people of this country are prepared to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to take back the streets, to take back what's theirs.

And it's here where we'd like to ask your help. I mentioned tougher laws. Congress has approved our request for more agents, more prosecutors, and more prisons to catch, convict, and contain this country's most dangerous offenders. But Congress also must act on our full range of tough new anticrime proposals. Our package is in danger of being weakened in the Senate, and it's been left gathering dust in the House. And it's time to act. The American people want it done right, and they want it done responsibly, and they want it done now.

Many challenges remain. But thanks to you and your government partners, the future holds the promise for crime victims of both continued support and a continued voice.

From a community activist in Boston's public housing to one of America's most unlikely new television stars, your courageous seven personify the selfless acts of thousands of concerned Americans who strive every single day to take back the streets. And you're living proof of Father George Clemens' rallying cry in Chicago: ``There are more of us than there are of them.''

Congratulations, and God bless you all. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:31 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. At the conclusion of his remarks, the following individuals received Department of Justice awards for outstanding public service on behalf of victims of crime: Howard and Constance Clery, Milton Cole, Sandra Heverly, Dean G. Kilpatrick, Emilia ``Mimi'' Olson, and John Walsh. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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