As mayor of Waterville, I am keenly aware that no community is immune from crime. Regrettably, the reality is that crime affects cities and towns across our state and our country every day. While those accused or convicted of crimes have enumerated rights that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, crime victims have no constitutional rights in Maine. I believe the time has come to shift the paradigm of how we currently look at crime to include a focus on victims’ rights, not just the rights of the convicted or accused. That is why an initiative called Marsy’s Law for Maine has earned my strong endorsement.

Marsy’s Law for Maine seeks to make sure crime victims have rights that are equal to those of the accused or convicted — rights that are strong, enforceable, and recognized at the highest levels. It will ensure crime victims have a voice, the right to be heard, and the ability to be active participants in their cases if they so choose. I believe crime victims in Maine deserve these common-sense rights. They are already afforded in 35 other states, and frankly, are overdue in Maine.

When you look at crime statistics, the number of people in our community directly impacted by crime is high. In the last several years, crimes in or near our city have included sexual assault, murder, and even the recent domestic violence homicides this summer that took three innocent lives in Madison — very close to home. More than 760 serious crimes were reported in Waterville alone in 2015, according to latest data available from Maine’s Department of Public Safety. And now, the opioid crisis is bringing more crime into our community and other communities across Maine.

The victims of these crimes, many of whom are going through the most difficult time of their lives, are undeniably the people most impacted by the crime. Yet too often, they are treated peripherally in their cases, leaving them to feel a deep sense of injustice. In some instances, the lack of equal rights and subsequent feeling of not being considered can cause a sense of re-victimization. If crime victims are afforded the rights that will be granted by Marsy’s Law for Maine — such as the right to timely notification of proceedings in their cases, timely notification of the release of the perpetrator, the right to restitution, and the right to be heard in certain proceedings in their case, their sense of injustice and re-victimization will be lessened.

Some may argue that Maine law already allows for these rights and protections for crime victims, but make no mistake about it — Maine law is inadequate. Rights that are only ordered “whenever practicable,” as is written in statute, are not sufficient. Crime victims deserve rights that are enumerated in Maine’s Constitution, and that are equal to the rights of the accused or convicted. Marsy’s Law for Maine will do just that.

I hope you will join me and the thousands of Maine people, including law enforcement leaders, faith leaders, crime victims and their advocates, who have voiced their support for Marsy’s Law for Maine. I am committed to this bipartisan effort and to working to make sure it continues to gain momentum. The people of Waterville deserve to know that if they become a victim of crime, they will have rights and protections that are equal to the accused or convicted, and will be treated with dignity, respect and consideration throughout the criminal justice process.

Please contact your state legislators to let them know you support this important initiative. With legislative support, and support for Marsy’s Law for Maine by people in cities like Waterville and communities across Maine, we will make sure victims of crime in our state finally have the common-sense, much-needed equallegal standing they deserve.

Nick Isgro is mayor of Waterville.

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