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Families and Politicians Pay Tribute to Crime Victims

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JOHNSON CITY, N.Y. -

Dozens gathered by the memorial wall in Johnson City's Oakdale Mall to remember victims of crime during National Crime Victims Rights Week.

The week, proclaimed by Gov. Cuomo and Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, began yesterday and runs until April 14th.

The Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) wants to keep the lives of victims alive through this wall - an exhibit of pictures and notes of crime victims from the Greater Binghamton area. For the past 30 years they have set up this exhibit in Oakdale Mall, and every year more people are added.

CVAC believes victims' family members are victims of crime, too. Sharyn Skinner lost her son, New York State Trooper Chris Skinner. Trooper Skinner was killed instantly when a deranged driver ran him over while he was on duty during a routine traffic stop. She came to show support for other victims.

“Grief is very hard work. It’s the hardest work that you will do in your life is to get yourself through the grief.” - Sharyn Skinner, Trooper Skinner's mother.

Every year, 20 million Americans fall victim to crime. None know this better than Johnson City Police Chief Brent Dodge. He and his officers confront dangerous situations almost daily. Four years ago, he lost officer D.W. Smith in a shootout. Chief Dodge thought it important to remember his fallen officer and connect with crime victims.

“We lost one of our own officers a few years ago. That really brought it home for me, the depth of the impact and the lasting impact that it has on the families.” - Dodge, Johnson City Police Chief.

CVAC is an organization that provides free counseling to persons who have been a victim of, or affected by, a crime, among other services. Its executive director, Raini Baudendistel has been helping crime victims cope for 17 years. She says the memorial wall is important to the families for several reasons.

"I think a lot of the families have gotten to the point where they look forward to connecting at this annual event. They have something very tragic in common. I think some of them have formed relationships as a result of some of our activities, so I think there’s a sense of camaraderie and support that goes a long way." - Baudendistel, executive director for the Crime Victims Assistance Center

Over 160 people are represented on this year’s memorial wall and Skinner's son is only one of them. She has her own advice to give those going through the same experience.

“Have someone who will listen to you talk about a loved one. Someone that you can ventilate to and they will validate your feelings. Too many times people don’t know how to react to someone who has had a huge loss, so they will avoid talking about it." - Skinner, Trooper Skinner's mother.

Skinner, a retired teacher, says a bereavement group helped her heal, but not forget. She hopes the community doesn’t either.

“You just don’t ever know when that last day is they're going to walk through the door." - Skinner, Trooper Skinner's mother.