Times Staff Writer

Police and detective shows nearly always end with the criminal being caught; the implied message is that he is going straight to prison while the people whom he victimized will get back to the business of normal living. Tonight, KCET Channel 28 is showing the real story.

"Victims of Crime: Silent No More," airing at 9 p.m., is a moving documentary that chronicles with chilling intimacy the pain, anger and frustration that live on for years in people who either have been victimized themselves or have lost loved ones to crime.

There is Maggie Fairchild, for instance, who in the aftermath of a brutal attack has turned her home into a steel fortress and is never without tear gas spray. Only therapy for her and her husband has enabled their marriage to survive.

There is Theresa Saldana, forced to confront her assailant in court and watch as he receives a sentence that may permit him to be freed from prison in just six years.

There is Barbara Bloomberg, sobbing as she talks about the end of the three-year confinement of the drunk driver who killed her son: "He's free to do whatever he wants. But for us, Seth is dead. That part of our lives is over; it's final. It's just not fair."

Written and produced for "KCET Journal" by Nancy Salter and hosted by Betty Thomas of "Hill Street Blues," "Victims of Crime" reports on what these victims and others are doing to find emotional support and legal counsel and to improve a criminal justice system that too often is insensitive to their plight.

It offers close-up looks at the activities of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Parents of Murdered Children, Victims for Victims and the Crime Victim Center.

While unabashedly sympathetic to the victims, Salter does pause occasionally to allow several lawyers and law enforcement officials to explain the rationale for the way the system operates and to question whether victims are the most objective people to overhaul it.

For those who already have been victimized, "Victims of Crime" is a resource of information about where they too can find support.

For those who haven't been victimized but might be, it's a sobering warning that the system does not automatically work in their best interest and they had better be prepared to accept the fact that grief will not excuse complacency.

Says a man whose wife was killed by a drunk driver: "You only find out by being through it (the justice system) to what degree it doesn't work the way it does on TV."

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