Week to honor crime victims begins this weekend

Kate Alexander knows the pain that a gunshot death can cause to a family member or friend of a victim.

As a therapist for the Crime Victim Center of St. Louis, she’s heard their stories. Now that center is taking steps to remember the number of gunshot victims and to cut the number of future victims, by sponsoring National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in this area. The week sponsored by the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime will be April 7-13. 

“It’s important to hold an event like this to promote safety and prevention,” Alexander said.

Events marking the week locally start early with the ninth annual vigil for homicide victims and their families at 10:30 a.m. April 6 at Sts. Teresa and Bridget Church, 2401 N. Grand Blvd. About 50 or 60 people usually attend the event, Alexander said. Most have been affected by homicide. Among those scheduled to attend are St. Louis Police Chief John H. Hayden Jr. and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon M. Belmar.

“We do it in a church to try to provide safe space,” said Katie Dalton, director of programs and volunteers for the Crime Victim Center. Counselors and victims’ advocates will be present to help those who are grieving. “It can be a sad event, absolutely.” 

Then from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 8, the center and the Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice will team up to hold a gun lock giveaway at the Crime Victim Center main office at 539 N. Grand Blvd., as part of the Lock It for Love Program. 

“The overall goal is to help keep firearms locked and to prevent accidental shootings,” Alexander said.

About 30 gunlocks will be available, Alexander said. However, if more people ask for them, their names will go on a waiting list.

Another event being held as part of the week is a resource fair sponsored by the Victim Services Unit of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office from 2-4 p.m. April 12 in the Emerson Performing Center at Harris-Stowe State University. People can talk to representatives of agencies and nonprofit groups that help crime victims. 

A panel discussion at that event will feature Dalton; Detective Ronalyn McDonald with the city police Domestic Violence Unit; Karelia Rajagopal, an assistant St. Louis circuit attorney; and Wolf Smith, who is with the St. Louis Anti-Violence Project.

A trivia night to benefit the Crime Victim Center will be held on April 27 at the John F. Kennedy Community Center, 315 Howdershell Road in Florissant. People can register on the website. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Founded in 1972, the center provides resources, counseling, advocacy and referral for thousands of victims of crime and their families. All services are free and are funded by federal, state and local governments, as well as donations and fundraisers. 

Those wanting more information may go to

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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