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Crime Victims Center

Laura Aheran. Photo from campaign

Laura Ahearn, longtime crime victims advocate, is ready to take on a new challenge, running for state senate. For 43 years the state District 1 seat has been held by Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), but she said it’s time for change. 

“Many members of the community are grateful for his [LaValle’s] service as I am, but it is time now for a new voice and an advocate like me to fight furiously for our community,” Ahearn said. 

For 25 years, the attorney said she has worked to keep the community safe from sexual predators. Ahearn also founded the Crime Victims Center “from a room in her home” and over the years established it into a nonprofit organization that has worked with local, state and federal law enforcement. 

“There are some serious flaws in the criminal justice reform that took place Jan. 1 that makes our communities very vulnerable.”

— Laura Ahearn

The center’s educational programs have been shown in numerous school districts, along with local colleges and universities throughout Suffolk County. 

“I want to take my advocacy experiences, my legal skills and use it to help our community, children and families up in Albany,” the executive director said. “I know my experience over the past 20 plus years positions me to take on other issues as well.”

Some issues Ahearn hopes to tackle is the recent bail reform issues and MS-13’s infiltration into Long Island schools. 

“There are some serious flaws in the criminal justice reform that took place Jan. 1 that makes our communities very vulnerable,” she said. “Bail reform was absolutely needed, because people who couldn’t afford cash bail were incarcerated, that’s not fair. But we haven’t looked at what the implications are for the community and for victims.”

Ahearn said the recent reform needs to be amended to add some discretion for judges who may need to hold certain offenders who may be eligible for automatic release. In addition, she said law enforcement and probation officers need to be given more resources to further monitor offenders of violent crimes. 

On the MS-13 front, Ahearn stressed we need to make sure we are giving schools the resources and funding they need to ramp up their security to protect students.  

Cost of living and keeping young professionals in Suffolk County have been vexing issues for elected officials. Ahearn knows this firsthand. 

“I have two grown children and they can’t afford to live on Long Island — high taxes are driving our kids out off the island,” she said. “We have to ensure that they have fair wages, educational opportunities, safe work environments and affordable housing.” 

The Port Jefferson resident said in terms of job opportunities she thought Amazon would’ve been a great opportunity for the county and if elected will strive to continue to bring businesses into the district. 

Other issues on the challenger’s radar are the ongoing opioid epidemic, curbing nitrogen pollution in local waterways, marine/wildlife conservation, phone scams targeting the elderly, tick-borne illness, among others. 

Ahearn, who graduated from Dowling College, Stony Brook University and Touro Law School, recently had a campaign kick-off event Dec. 10 and said she is looking forward to meeting and learning from movers and shakers in the area. The senate district stretches from eastern end of Suffolk County to the eastern end of Town of Brookhaven.  

“As time moves forward, I’m going to learn a lot from the advocates in the community — I’m not an expert on some issues and I want to learn from those advocates who are those experts. They have to educate me, so I can represent them,” she said. 

The attorney said the position requires one to work with everyone, something she has done for two decades, helping develop, implement and manage crime prevention programs and assist in drafting a number of state, local and federal laws. 

“I really love what I’ve been doing,” she said. “Voters have a decision to make and I have a demonstrated history of fighting for our community and if that’s what they want — someone who will fight furiously for them — then they should vote for me.”

Laura Ahearn of the Crime Victims Center speaks during a press conference to announce a consortium to tackle sexual violence, flanked by from left District Attorney Tim Sini, Legislature Leslie Kennedy, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Hochul and Legislator DuWayne Gregory. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Leaders from private and public sectors came together April 20 to form a partnership that would make Randy Newman proud.

“You’ve got a friend in me,” was the message from members of the local business world following the creation of the Long Island Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Consortium, an initiative spearheaded by Laura Ahearn, executive director of Suffolk County’s The Crime Victims Center.

The organizations currently partnering with the Crime Victims Center to form the Long Island Sexual Violence and Response Consortium. Photo by Alex Petroski

As a direct result of the #MeToo social media movement turned global awakening, societal response to accusations of sexual misconduct and crime has undergone a swift change, especially in cases in which the accused is of a high-profile. But lawmakers and advocates for the movement have been asking an essential question since the movement ensnared the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar back in 2017: How will men who are not famous perpetrating acts of sexual violence against victims who need their job to survive truly be held accountable? Ahearn’s consortium may serve as a model in answering that question.

“We asked them to just do one thing to help us prevent sexual violence, and we would be satisfied if that one thing was just to be a member of our consortium, because they’re very busy,” Ahearn said of her pitch to business leaders when trying to rally support for the partnership. “We didn’t want to pressure them, and we didn’t want to ask them for money, because every time they hear ‘not-for-profit,’ they’re like ‘money?’ So instead, what we did is we said ‘just do one thing. Just come to our consortium, give us your logo and you’ll be part of what we’re doing to raise awareness.’ There’s a certain amount of credibility that a big company adds to an organization just working to prevent sexual violence.”

The CVC, Ahearn’s organization, is a not-for-profit organization that has been a relentless advocate for victims of all crimes since the late ‘90s. It assists victims of child sex abuse and rape, provides services to victims of violent crime, and assists elderly, disabled and minor victims of all crime. To form the consortium, Ahearn presented a list of options businesses could incorporate into its standard practices, which if adhered to should make workplaces on Long Island safer for vulnerable members of the workforce.

The list of options businesses were asked to pick from and incorporate to become a member included adding a link to the LISVP consortium on businesses’ websites; providing prevention education and victim services materials in new employee orientation; adding prevention messages to receipts provided to customers; creating public service announcements; hosting training sessions aided by the CVC; and many more.

“All the degradation of women in the workplace that has gone on in the shadows throughout our lifetimes … it’s over.”

— Kathleen Hochul

Organizations signed on to be a part of the consortium so far include Stony Brook Medicine, Altice, Northwell Health, AT&T, Verizon, BNB Bank, Catholic Health Services of Long Island, TRITEC Real Estate Company, Uber, Lyft and many more. Ahearn said in most cases, leaders of the private sector institutions signed on to take more than one step on the list, and that only one organization she reached out to declined to join. She said she hopes to add to the current list of about 40 consortium partners.

Local lawmakers from virtually all levels of government also attended the April 20 press conference to announce the consortium in Hauppauge and voice support for the cause.

“All the degradation of women in the workplace that has gone on in the shadows throughout our lifetimes, whether it’s the insidious, quiet comments, innuendoes, or whether it’s the more blatant abuse — touching or physical violence — it’s over,” New York Lieutenant Gov. Kathleen Hochul (D) said.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) also attended the press conference to voice support for the initiative.

“In government we are often focused on what government agencies can do to help a cause, and often we’re shortsighted, and we don’t look beyond the walls of government,” Sini said. “Laura Ahearn doesn’t make that mistake, and it’s crucial.”