By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS) — Every year, tens of thousands of Philadelphians fall victim to crime.

“When someone’s a crime victim, it’s a life-altering event for them,” says Jonathan Davis, director of North Central Victim Crime Services, one of more than two dozen organizations specifically designed to help victims in Philadelphia.

And last month, for the first time, the group teamed up with one of its neighboring agencies, Northwest Victim Services, to host a 5K walk fundraiser.

“We are taking one step for change,” said Melany Nelson, who runs Northwest Victim Services, which serves four police districts — the 5th, 14th, 35th, and 39th.


(A walk to raise money for two of Philadelphia's victim support agencies was held in April 2015.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(A walk to raise money for two of Philadelphia’s victim support agencies was held in April 2015. Photo by Cherri Gregg)


After a victim contacts police, the police put them in touch with the appropriate agency.

“All of our services are free,” says Nelson, who supervises the advocates that help victims deal with everything from the trauma of crime, to lost wages, to housing, to medical bills.

She says the advocates even attend hearings with the victim, straight through to trial.

“We help them navigate through the judicial system, which can be trying and very intimidating,” she says.

In one year, Northwest serviced nearly 3,200 victims.  North Central helped about 600 clients in the 22nd police district.  Davis says they’re working to let more people know about their services.

“There were more than 6,000 crime victims in our district,” says Davis. “We need our community to be more aware of these services.”

The agencies provide all of their services on a shoestring budget from the state, supplemented by fundraising. The 5K walk was one such effort, drawing a small but enthusiastic crowd during Victim Rights Week, in April. They raised $6,500.

Now, the goal is to grow the walk and the amount of money raised.

“We need the support of the victims, we need the support of the residents, and we need the support of the business owners to make a change,” says Nelson. “We need to take our streets back.”

Both Nelson and Davis are passionate about what they do, working weekends and late nights to do whatever it takes to help the victims of crimes move on. But why they do it is pretty simple.

“It’s rewarding to really see some of our clients come back and say how we have been able to help them,” says Davis.

“I love it, I love what I do,” adds Nelson.


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