San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon today announced the expansion of the reach of his office’s victim services division, which is now holding office hours in the city’s Mission and Bayview neighborhoods.

Since June, members of the district attorney’s victim services staff have been going out to the offices of Mujeres Unidas y Activas in the Mission and the Southeast Community Facility Commission in the Bayview to assist the victims and witnesses of crimes in the city.

“One of the commitments that I made when I took over the district attorney’s office is to bring the office closer to the community,” Gascon said. “This is a step in moving forward and bringing the DA’s office closer to the communities that we serve.”

He said, “I recognize it’s often difficult for victims … to come to the Hall of Justice” where the services are normally available, and said today’s event was to “expose the community to what victim services does.”

The victim services division of the district attorney’s office employs 11 trained crime victim advocates, eight claim specialists to help victims get necessary benefits quickly, and provides a list of therapists who are available and speak a variety of languages.

The division, which also helps with witness relocation, transportation needs and other issues, assists about 4,000 victims each year.

“We help crime victims get their lives back on track,” said Maria Bee, chief of the victim services division.

Juana Flores, executive director of the nonprofit Mujeres Unidas y Activas, said via a translator that “going through these systems can be very difficult and scary,” especially for immigrant and minority communities wary of the criminal justice system.

Members of the victim services division are holding the office hours at Mujeres Unidas y Activas, located at 3543 18th St., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. The Southeast Community Facility Commission will also host office hours, which will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays.

People can make appointments for the services, which are free, or walk in off the street. The services will also still be available at the Hall of Justice, located at 850 Bryant St.

Gascon said the move does not require any additional funding, and if there is a large demand for the services at the community centers, the office hours could be made permanent.

He said while the victim services can often enhance investigations, “it’s really about helping the victims get through.”

For more information about the services, call (415) 553-9044.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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