In America, violence and crime can happen to anyone at any time and circumstance. Anyone can be a victim of a crime and anyone may become an offender. We hear about all kinds of violent crimes on the news every day and this year in particular, a major crime happens almost every week.
When a crime happens, victims are always the prime concern. The media, the police, the District Attorneys, the nurses and doctors, and social workers and therapists rush to the victims to provide their services and help. People express their great empathy for the victims and they want to do anything in their power to support the victims. The news coverage about the victims is widespread and the more we see it, the stronger the urge is to offer help and show the victims caring and support. This explains why there are so many service agencies and programs that provide support directly to victims for all kinds of crimes, such as rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, and gang activity. There is no doubt that it is a great thing about this country that it has a well-developed system available to victims.
What about the offenders? Do we have a system for them, other than the criminal justice system? We have forensic counselors, who have DAs and police officers, and we have the jail system, but these all come after the crime has happened and the harm has been done. People cannot stop wondering: how did someone become a murderer or an offender? What happened to them that led to the killing? Are there any clues that someone is about to lose control and commit a crime? Would they have changed their mind if given an opportunity to do so?
While recognizing the great need to help victims recover from trauma, more and more people are wondering how we can stop the crime before it happens. By preventing the crime, we are actually preventing more people from becoming victims. Hypothetically, if there is no crime, there is no victim and there is no need for any victim-oriented service. To be realistic, not all crime can be stopped, and some people are determined to hurt and kill, possibly caused by severe mental illness. However, there are definitely a good number of crimes that can be prevented and intervened upon. In such circumstances, we believe a homicide-prevention strategy or program can be developed. This idea may sound overwhelming to some people – can we prevent one person from killing another?
If we are able to focus on conditions that lead to a homicide, break them down into manageable parts and discuss them, it is clear that some murder/homicide cases are preventable. Research has shown that preventing homicide requires the community to work together: it is not just the police’s job to stop the crime; it is not just the DA’s job to increase prosecution. Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) of the US Justice Department developed a “murder prevention star” chart to help develop a comprehensive strategy that could affect criminal homicide the same way the traditional crime triangle (victim, offender, and location) is used. The murder prevention star depicts five elements that must be present for a murder to occur: victim, offender, means, motive and opportunity. However, by eliminating a single star element, it can contribute to the larger goal of preventing murder.
While there are a great number of service providers focusing on victims, there is a huge void in providing services to people who are struggling with fear, anger and misunderstanding. They may have thoughts at the end of committing homicide and without intervention they may become an offender.
Life Target believes by providing immediate support and intervention to such a group of people, we can stop more crimes from happening and that is how I was motivated to start this nonprofit agency which plans to implement a hotline service to prevent violence. Life Target is a nonprofit 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization with the goal for it to begin operating by January 2017 to service those people who are contemplating harming someone.
Life Target‘s purpose is to prevent people from causing violence to others.
The Life Target Hotline will provide immediate counseling and crisis intervention to anyone who expresses homicidal ideation to hurt people in the community, in any given situation. Life Target’s trained professional counselors and volunteers will provide judgment-free crisis counseling and intervention to all hotline callers, and there will be subsequent counseling provided if requested by callers. The hotline will be set up to counsel anyone in need of its service, anonymously, regardless of their age, sex, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion or political background. Our service will be free and confidential, under federal and state law regulations.
At Life Target, we believe a crime can be prevented and we would like to share this idea with all communities and reach as many people as we can. We want to raise a new voice in the community that homicide is preventable and we are here to support people who may have nowhere else to turn to for help. We want to send a message to people who are struggling with negative thoughts towards others; those who are concerned that these thoughts and ideas may turn into violence, and who want help to stop. We want to reach out to these people to let them know we are here to listen, to support, to help, to stand with them together. We want to show them they are not alone, and they are not abandoned by society. We are hoping people are willing to utilize our service as often as they need it and throughout the communication with our professional counselors and volunteers, they will find a way back.
I thank you for your support and invite you to participate in Life Target, in any way you can.