Editorial: CVCC move not good for victims

Published 8:39 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center last month was moved from its location on the first floor of the historic portion of the Freeborn County Government Center to the second floor of the newer part of the courthouse in a space formerly occupied as a law library.

It is between the Court Administration window and courtrooms on one end of the building and the county probation and pre-trial services space and and the county attorney’s office on the other. 

We question whether this decision was made with a victim’s welfare in mind.

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Imagine being the victim of a sexual assault, house break-in, physical assault or some other crime, and you have arrived at the courthouse to meet with the staff and volunteers at the Crisis Center office. To get there, you had to risk walking near the offenders arriving to check in to probation or for their court hearings, and you have to hope that your perpetrator is not one of the ones you have to pass in the hallway. This would be particularly troublesome on days with hearings that both parties would have to attend.

Many of these victims have been abused and are frightened — some have even had their lives threatened by these perpetrators.

We ask, is there a better way?

According to Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen, the relocation took place after a series of other moves that started about 18 months ago tied to a lack of space in the administration department and the need for a conference room that can be used for closed commissioner sessions and other sensitive meetings.

Jensen said the ditch inspector — who utilized a space large enough for two staff — was moved from the second floor of the historic courthouse to a smaller space on the main level of the government center that is better for public access, and the driver’s license testing was moved to the first floor of the historic building into the Crime Victims Crisis Center’s old space.

With a transfer of one staff member from the IT department to the administration department to process and handle payables and payroll, Jensen said administration needed another office, noting that two staff were already sharing space in one small area and one staff was in a hallway.

He said he spoke to the judges and moved the law library to a smaller office next to the former location and then relocated the CVCC office there.

He listed the benefits of the new location for the Crisis Center office as being 30 feet away from court security officers, having security cameras in the space and hallway immediately outside and being across the hall from the Court Administration office where orders for protection are filed.

Though we agree that close access to court security officers and the security cameras is a plus, we still think the negative outweighs the positive and implore the county to consider a new location.