(Tallahassee.com) - Attorney General Pam Bondi honored seven Florida law enforcement members who went above the call of duty for crime victims this past year.
Bondi was joined by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam during a Wednesday ceremony at the Capitol, where they lauded the advances in victims' rights over the past 30 years. This week was proclaimed National Crime Victims' Rights Week by Gov. Rick Scott to celebrate those advances and to remember crime victims who've lost their lives and their families.
Bondi presented six Distinguished Victims Services Awards to state law enforcement officers for action ranging from disrupting a human trafficking network from Mexico to helping a young boy replace his vandalized piggy bank.
Bondi said the recipients are "truly great people who have done great work to help our victims of crimes."
Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk was given the annual David S. Crawford Law Enforcement Officer Victim Services Award named after slain St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford, who was shot and killed in 2011.
Rambosk has become a leading voice in Collier County on domestic violence and human trafficking. He oversaw a partnership between his office and the Shelter for Abused Women and Children to create a program that better prioritizes domestic-violence cases with a high risk of death.
Bondi reflected on just how far the rights of victims have come in 30 years, including notification of a killer's arrest or when a suspect has made a plea deal.
"Today, we are so blessed that we do take so much better care of our victims," Bondi said. She credited Florida law, popularly known as the Crime Victim's Bill of Rights, which spells out guidelines for fair treatment of victims and witnesses in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, as being key to the cause.
Victims and the families of victims were also in attendance.
Jeffrey Nelson, the older brother of 10-year-old Elisa Nelson, who was abducted and murdered in Palm Harbor in 1980, told of his family's struggles with the justice system before victim rights laws were in place.
During the trial of his sister's killer, Larry Eugene Mann, his family was not allowed in the courtroom and weren't allowed to speak during the sentencing phase. No victim assistance or counseling services had been set up back then, he said.
Lopez-Cantera thanked law enforcement for their hard work and boasted the state's crime rate is at a 42-year low.
"There's still victims, even with that low crime rate," Putnam said. "There are still victims and we have to hold their interests paramount, lift them up and give them the support and services they deserve."