Spurred by a growing criminal caseload and a referendum on victims' rights on the November ballot, the county's candidates for state's attorney are touting their plans for helping people cope with violent crime.
Marna McLendon, the Republican running for state's attorney, said she would use volunteers to increase services to victims and possibly add a professional program coordinator.
"You want to help victims become survivors, and the criminal justice process can do that," said Ms. McLendon of Ellicott City.
Her Democratic opponent, Dario Broccolino, said he wants to evaluate the services before deciding if they should be expanded.
Mr. Broccolino, also of Ellicott City, said that for the prosecutor's office to help victims as their cases move through the courts just makes common sense.
"To me, this is such a given," he said.
"It really shouldn't be an issue."
The state's attorney's office has two coordinators in Circuit Court and a legal aide in District Court who inform victims and witnesses in criminal cases about the status of their cases, prepare them to testify and help them cope with what may have been a traumatic experience.
The state's attorney's office handled 2,729 Circuit Court cases and 4,227 District Court cases in the 1992-1993 fiscal year, according to a report by the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Ms. McLendon said that she would like to bring in a "cadre of volunteers" who would be trained to help provide services to victims and witnesses. She also said she would consider hiring a victim-witness coordinator in District Court and appointing a prosecutor to handle domestic violence cases.
She noted that domestic violence cases often require extra attention, because the victims may be reluctant to file charges and follow through on criminal proceedings.
Mr. Broccolino said that, if he found the system inadequate, he would work with county officials to hire an independent coordinator.
The coordinator could work for the county executive or county Office of Law and would help victims and witnesses who were unhappy with how their cases were being handled, Mr. Broccolino said.
The position would not replace existing ones in the state's attorney's office, he said. A liaison between victims and prosecutors is important, Mr. Broccolino said.
Ms. McLendon and Mr. Broccolino said they support the statewide referendum that seeks to establish victims' rights in an amendment to Maryland's Constitution. They said they doubted the measure would affect operations in the state's attorney's office.
The referendum would require officials to notify victims of court proceedings, treat victims "with respect and sensitivity throughout the criminal justice process" and allow victims to speak at court hearings.
Mr. Broccolino called the referendum an indictment of the justice system because it shows that victims have to seek a constitutional amendment to ensure proper treatment.
"What they're asking for is nothing dramatic," he said. "It's basic common sense."
A "town meeting" on the referendum will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
The meeting is being sponsored by the state's attorney's office.
At 10 a.m. Nov. 5, a ceremony commemorating what would have been the 60th birthday of Shirley Rue Mullinix, will be held at
Howard Community College. Mrs. Mullinix, a home teacher for the county school system, was slain by a student in March 1992. Her husband, Wayne Mullinix, is working in support of the referendum.
During the ceremony, a plaque will be placed at an Eastern Redbud tree planted in memory of Mrs. Mullinix.
The ceremony starts at 10 a.m.