Allegheny County DA’s office fights to support victims of crime and abuse

By District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr.

Pictured: District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr.

The most recent crime statistics show that more than 12,000 cases of fraud were reported throughout Allegheny County in 2018, costing more than $8 million in losses. This year, it’s estimated that more than 5,200 cases of abuse will be reported—all of them investigated; and when substantiated, they will be prosecuted. 

Over the next four years, Allegheny County will see the largest increase in residents reaching seniority in its history. Along with that increase comes challenges to ensure that we are meeting the threats to your safety, peace of mind and your right to justice. 

Our seniors should have the right to dignity and respect. I created the county’s first Elder Abuse Unit in 2004. Working closely with Protective Services, the members of our Elder Abuse Unit are dedicated to protecting seniors from all varieties of abuse and ensuring they enjoy their well-earned comfort and security. 

We’ve also added a Senior Justice Unit that every day is out with you in the community increasing awareness of scams, abuse and neglect. Our visits and your help in our Fraud Squad have paid off in real dividends. With your help we’ve been able to stop more than $10 million in scams against county seniors.

Since I took office, I’ve placed a premium on making sure we’re using the best technologies available to keep you safe. High-resolution surveillance cameras reduce local crime rates and quickly helps law enforcement solve open investigations on crimes against seniors. As our population ages, many residents are at increased risk of crime. It’s also our job to ensure that victims and their families feel safe and supported as they navigate the justice system. Many times, this means obtaining Protections from Abuse Orders (PFAs) to keep their abusers away.

Working with the victims of crime is often the most challenging part of my job. After a crime occurs, victims and their families are left wondering why it happened and what they could have done to prevent it. They struggle with how they’ll move forward, knowing they could be targets again. In these moments, we cannot only be law enforcement officers. We must also be advocates that families can count on to get the justice they deserve. 

That’s why, as District Attorney, I’ve made protecting victims of crime, and their right to justice, a priority. 

I created the first Child and Elder Abuse Units to safeguard our most vulnerable county residents. We strengthened the Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) processes to preserve victims’ rights to safety. And, our County’s first Domestic Violence Unit was created to provide dedicated resources for this traumatic crime requiring special investigation. 

Despite all these firsts, we can still do more to protect the rights of crime victims. Marsy’s Law would give victims specific rights during the legal process, including respectful treatment, the time to speak during court proceedings, a swift decision and protection from their accusers. This amendment gives victims a stronger voice in the pursuit of justice. 

Allegheny County has always been a statewide leader in supporting victims and safeguarding their rights. Now, it’s time to take our success statewide. Stand with me and add your voice—and your yes vote—to our call for this amendment.