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Philadelphia’s New Victim Advocate Starts Work Amid Gun Violence Surge

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Anna Orso | January 31, 2022

Philadelphia’s newly appointed victim advocate will begin next week, providing support services to crime victims and championing policy on their behalf, work that officials say is vital as the city weathers a historic surge in shootings.

Adara L. Combs, a former prosecutor who spent more than a decade in the District Attorney’s Office, will lead the Office of the Victim Advocate, which was created by legislation passed in 2020 and approved by voters through a ballot question. Mayor Jim Kenney appointed Combs to a six-year term, and she was confirmed by City Council last week.

Combs said Monday the office will be a hub for victims of crime and their families to seek help and be connected with service providers who offer financial assistance, trauma counseling, or advocacy during the criminal justice process. The office is modeled after a similar state agency created in 1995.

While Combs said the new Philadelphia office was “birthed out of necessity due to the amount of gun violence the city has seen,” it will serve all types of victims.

“Victims don’t only exist due to gun crimes,” she said. “But right now, we are facing a serious epidemic of gun violence, so that will be our initial focus.”

She said she will also advocate on behalf of crime victims as a group, including lobbying for legislation at the local and state level. The state office has led campaigns in support of a variety of legislative proposals, most notably Marsy’s Law, a controversial amendment to the state constitution that would have codified enforceable rights for crime victims. The state Supreme Court struck down the amendment in December on technical grounds.

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