“In honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a cherry tree and victims’ waiting room were dedicated at the Allegan County Courthouse on Friday, April 13, in memory of a fierce advocate for young victims of abuse and neglect—Michigan State Police trooper Ray Hoffman.
Hoffman died at the age of 46 on Sept. 26, 2017, due to heart complications. He had been with the Michigan State Police for 24 years at the Wayland Post. Hoffman was instrumental in changing and improving forensic investigations and interviewing of abuse and neglect, and sexual abuse of children in Michigan.
He helped draft Michigan’s model protocols for these types of investigations and helped train hundreds of people in the use of them. Dedicated to helping children, he worked closely with young victims of abuse and neglect at Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center.
Allegan Police Chief Rick Hoyer welcomed Hoffman’s family, brothers and sisters in uniform, elected officials, judges, and court and victims’ rights support staff as they gathered next to the courtyard’s Civil War monument for the tree dedication. Hoyer said it was a time to remember and honor not only past and present victims but also those who help them. He said Hoffman was a mentor to all in that area.
Prosecuting attorney Myrene Koch gave the dedication address. She said the first encounter with a crime victim is the most critical moment on how successful the case will be.
“It sets the tone on how they view the criminal justice system and that was taught to me by a special person—Ray Hoffman. “He was a true champion of victims’ rights.
“His passion helping victims never faltered or wavered, even when he was sick. He had a genuine sense of caring for every victim he met.”
Koch said Crime Victim’s Rights Week, April 8-14, was a challenge for communities to revisit the history of the victims’ rights movement, celebrate progress made and recommit to make further advancements in this area. The theme was “Expand the Circle, Reach all Victims.”
“This year’s theme is the importance of inclusion,” she said. “To reach all victims of crime we must build relationships by reaching out, listening and delivering competent services.
“We must engage our communities across professional, cultural and economic areas and remove barriers to reporting, provide safety and access of services.”
Koch said in 1990, the prosecutor’s office and Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center (then the Child Victim Services Commission) collaborated on a grant to hire the first funded victims’ rights advocate. Although needs have changed, the agency still funds the advocate today and for the past 22 years, Emelda Calanchi-Pope has been that person.
Calanchi-Pope, Rhonda Baux, Dianne Yeaman and Jewell Raab, all of the prosecutor’s office and Lauren Frederick of Safe Harbor were all recognized for their efforts promoting Crime Victims’ Rights Week and helping victims get the services they need throughout the sentencing process, which can take years.
Koch said in the three-month period in 2018 between January and March, 288 victims of crime were served. While numbers are still being compiled for 2017, in 2016, 8,678 contacts from victims of crime were handled.
Those who work with crime victims donated to rejuvenate the victims’ rights room in the prosecutor’s office for crime victims and family members waiting to testify in court. The room was then dedicated in memory of Hoffman with his name on a plaque outside the room and a three-part framed set with a photo of Hoffman, a photo of the cherry tree and a quote that summed up the trooper.
The quote had been a tribute to Hoffman by Det. Craig Gardiner of the Sheriff’s office.
It reads: “If you remember anything of me, After I leave this world, Remember that I loved even when it was foolish. That I cared even when it was unwanted. When my body is gone remember my heart.”
“He offered encouragement and hope when it was needed most,” Koch said. “These are reminders to all of hope, kindness, strength and Ray, and to always look up.”
The plaque on the stone at the base of the cherry tree reads, “In honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week 2018. Planting Hope for the Future.””