Some nervous about crime victims office changes

August 3, 2010 4:41:38 PM PDT
What is being billed as an administrative change for the Crimes Victims Assistance Office is making some people nervous. Last month, the victims' assistance office was moved into the Houston Police Department. Eyewitness News first reported the change last month. Houston is the only city in the country with a Crime Victims Assistance Office. Now, the mayor's office is providing few answers to the families Andy Kahan has helped for so many years.

For 18 years, Kahan has been the heart and soul for Houston's crime victims' community.

"The word Andy Kahan means hope," said Carrie Ruiz, a crime victim's relative.

Ruiz met Kahan 11 years ago after her 17-year-old daughter was murdered. She believes the hope he's offered her and so many others may be in jeopardy. Earlier last month, Kahan was suddenly moved from City Hall to HPD at Mayor Parker's request.

Ruth Marin-Eason heads up Heights Parents of Murdered Children, a local crime victim's advocacy group, and says things haven't been the same since.

"Now I have to go through all this red tape to get to Andy, and that is wrong," Marin-Eason said.

She worries how Kahan's transfer will impact her group's annual event tied to next month's National Remembrance Day for crime victims. She says Kahan always arranged everything. Marin-Eason was so upset she fired off a letter to Mayor Parker asking specific questions about the move.

"Who do I call? Is the mayor going to take over and help us?" Marin-Eason asked.

Marin-Eason got the same response we did -- a written statement, which in part says: "This is a change to continue my commitment to budget transparency, not to change Mr. Kahan's duties. He will continue to have direct contact with crime victims."

Kahan admits the move will take some getting used to.

"You know, it's up to me to make the adjustment and adapt to a little different ways, and hopefully I'll be succeeding," Kahan said.

Ruiz calls the move a big mistake. She and Marin-Eason hope Mayor Parker keeps her word.

"He's been denied access to us ever since he's been moved," Ruiz said.

They say the events Kahan has helped them with in years past are important to victims' families. They hate to think what might happen if she doesn't.

"I think it's going to be a sad day in history if they take Andy Kahan away," Ruiz said.

"I hope I'll be able to continue doing good work, not only working with victims but pushing through legislative reforms," Kahan said.

Kahan's transfer has caught the attention of at least one city council member. Mike Sullivan met with HPD late last week. Sullivan said he's in the process of finding out what crime victims and their families can expect going forward.


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