True-crime survivors tell their stories, partially via Gio Benitez

ABC News correspondent hosts 'I Survived a Crime' for A&E

Gio Benitez hosts the A&E series “I Survived a Crime,” premiering Wednesday.

Transportation is his main ABC News beat now, but Gio Benitez certainly knows there are other stories to tell, too.

The multiple Emmy Award winner does that as the host of “I Survived a Crime,” an A&E Network series premiering Wednesday, Feb. 17. The show enables people who were in dangerous situations, ranging from road-rage incidents to robberies, to recount their experiences. While many such programs use dramatic re-creations to illustrate the first-person comments, this one doesn’t need to: A wealth of cell-phone, hidden-camera and surveillance footage displays the actual crimes while they were in progress. Executive producers include ABC News’ chief legal analyst and Abrams Media owner Dan Abrams.

After receiving a call from A&E about his potentially doing the show, “I just thought that we haven’t seen something like this,” the pleasant Benitez reflects. “Before I started my transportation role at ABC, I was doing big crime stories that ended up on ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘20/20.’ A lot of the time, you cover the crime when it happens, and sometimes you might hear from a survivor — but the story ends at that point.

“With this show, we’re going back to these people,” adds Benitez. “We’re following their journey from the moment (the given crime happened to them) all the way to where they are today. I think it’s really going to be fascinating for viewers to see and to learn from, because these people have really inspiring messages. That’s what’s surprising to me … that a lot of these people aren’t angry, and they have these moments of insight.”

Noting that he was a sociology student in college, Benitez explains, “I was really fascinated with how the human mind works and why we do certain things. I really like to dive into that, and with this show, I can.”

The ample video of the actual crimes supports that. “It’s unbelievable, the footage the producers have found and the connections they’ve made with a lot of these survivors,” Benitez says. “It’s an entirely different age. I see all of the video clips before we start working on an episode, so we look at everything, then we start talking to a lot of the (involved) folks.”

Benitez was named ABC News’ transportation correspondent before he knew he’d be covering such stories as the delivery of plane-loads of vaccines. “I’ve had to do a lot of learning very, very quickly,” he allows. “I really try to figure out what the audience needs to know, because these are complicated issues, and I don’t expect everybody to be a scientist. I hope I bring it home in a way that it resonates with people why it should matter to them.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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