September 3, 1979; the day that changed the future for Harriet Salarno, her family and all victims of crime in the state of California. Harriet’s eldest daughter, Catina, was shot and killed at the University of the Pacific in Stockton on her first day of school. She was only 19 years old. Her murderer was a long time childhood friend, Steve Burns, who had stalked her and murdered her. In an instant, Harriet was thrust into victim’s advocacy.
The senseless murder of her daughter prompted Harriet to form the San Francisco chapter of Parents of Murdered Children in 1979. Then, in 1984, she founded Justice for Murder Victims, and in 1990 she founded Crime Victims United of California, a statewide organization that not only offers support to victims, but also lobbies at the State Capitol for legislation to protect and improve California’s public safety. Harriet is the chair and her youngest daughter, Nina Salarno Ashford serves as an executive board member.
Harriet is a fighter for those who can’t. In 1983, she and then State Senator Quentin Kopp, co-chaired the Crime Victims Bill of Rights campaign, and in 1990, she served as Northern California chair for the campaign to pass the Speedy Trials Initiative. This effort, on a statewide level, has earned Harriet national recognition, having appeared on “Nightline” and “48 Hours” and as the subject of articles in Woman’s Day and Ladies Home Journal.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Harriet was appointed by former Governor Pete Wilson to the California Council on Criminal Justice, the State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, the Commission on Judicial Performance and was appointed by former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan to the city’s Juvenile Justice Probation Commission.
Harriet is also a past recipient of the Doris Tate Governor’s Award and Woman of the Year award from former Assemblymembers John Burton and Jackie Speier, and has received recognition from the United States Department of Justice. In 2006 she received special recognition from the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation at Project 2000 XVII for her dedication to Crime Victims United of California and her active pursuit of its goals. She is the 2006 winner of the California Correctional Peace Officer’s Association John Wayne Award and was awarded the Golden Badge Foundations Victim’s Advocate Award in 2006. She was also awarded the Assoc. of Deputy District Attorneys 2006 Pursuit of Justice Award. In 2009 she was recognized by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office for her continued dedication to victims’ work.
In 2008 Harriet was an initiative signer for Proposition 9 the State Constitutional Amendment for Victims Rights (Marsy’s Law). She had her daughter Nina both served on the Prop 9 campaign, and both campaigned tirelessly to pass this initiative.
Harriet is a tireless worker in support of victim’s rights and she has never let go of these three ideals: help survivors cope with the tremendous grief, ensure that the rights of victims are not ignored within the judicial system, and bring about change that would make a balanced justice system.