Modified: July 4, 2016 8:50pm
It was a cold, January morning in 1996 when Jeffrey Ricketts heard the news. A friend and fellow crime victims’ advocate was killed in a car accident. Today, he remembers the woman, Dawn Chase, a single mom devoted to her son, who was one of the strongest voices in our community for victims caught in the criminal justice system.
“She was outspoken for victims. She wanted to affect change on a local, state and national level,” says Ricketts, who is celebrating 30 years as Project Coordinator in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Bureau.
Ricketts says having known Chase makes receiving an award in her memory even more of an honor. Ricketts was presented with the Dawn Chase Memorial Award by the Coalition for Crime Victims of WNY. It recognizes the outstanding achievements of crime victim advocates who exemplify dedication and commitment to the people they serve.
“I was honored. I didn’t expect it,” says Ricketts. “These people are going through the worst times of their lives, and it is very gratifying to be able to help.”
“Thanks to Jeffrey’s leadership over the years, countless crime victims have had the closure they so desperately seek,” says acting DA Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. “He has gone above and beyond and has made our office proud of the good work we are doing outside of the courtroom.”
The Victim/Witness Bureau at the DA’s Office is the largest in Western New York. It helps crime victims get access to emotional, physical and financial support. Ricketts says each person’s needs are different, depending on the circumstances of the crime, how well the victims cope and their knowledge of the criminal justice system.
Listening to what they have to say is key, according to Ricketts. He says the victims often suffer from feelings of guilt, shame, anger and depression, but being involved in the legal process helps them heal.
“It’s all a big, bad memory,” says Ricketts. “But they feel like they have to do everything possible to make the perpetrator accountable. They want to see justice done.”
If the stress of the job is taking a toll on Ricketts, you would never know. He seems as determined as ever to continue the outstanding legacy of Dawn Chase, who was lost so tragically 20 years ago.
“It has always been an honor and privilege to be part of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office for as long as I have, “ says Ricketts. “ I feel I have made a difference in hundreds of lives. I have learned over time how important it is to care for crime victims.”
If you are a victim of a crime, contact the Erie County District Attorney’s Victim/Witness Bureau at (716) 858-4640.