Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Crime Victims Board
(518) 457-8828 or (518) 275-5508 – cell
janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov

For immediate release: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008

Crime Victims Board provides more than $28 million
to assist crime victims and their families in 2006-07
Board also funds 195 victims’ assistance programs across the state

The New York State Crime Victims Board provided more than $28 million in assistance – including payment of medical and funeral expenses and compensation for lost wages – to crime victims and their families during the state’s 2006-07 fiscal year.

The board handled a total of 17,437 claims in 2006-07. The board made 9,134 awards, the amount of which varies, depending on each victim’s circumstances or needs.

In addition to directly compensating victims, the Crime Victims Board provided $25.7 million in funding – about $2 million more than the prior year – to 195 victim assistance programs across the state in 2006-07. Those grants fund programs offered by local district attorneys’ offices; probation and police departments; hospitals; and non-profit organizations including YWCAs, rape crisis centers and child advocacy centers. Victim assistance programs provide services that range from crisis intervention and counseling; arranging for legal assistance and transportation; and assistance with filing for compensation.

All told, the board served 230,000 crime victims in every county in the state, from rural Allegany and Schoharie counties to the five boroughs of New York City and everywhere in between.

 “The Crime Victims Board and its entire staff are committed to providing innocent victims of crime with compensation and assistance they need during a very difficult time in their lives,” Board Chairwoman Tina M. Stanford said. “While the work we do can never erase what happened, it is our hope that we can provide a measure of comfort, support and peace of mind that can allow victims to reclaim their lives.”

“But we also know that many crime victims may not realize that there is help available,” she added. “It is our hope that by working in partnership with law enforcement agencies across the state, we can reach more men, women and children who can benefit from the assistance that the board can provide.”
                       
To that end, the Crime Victims Board last year worked in partnership with police departments and district attorneys’ offices to provide training and education about rights of crime victims, as well as distributed to law enforcement agencies across the state more than three million information cards detailing services available to crime victims. The board also has updated its website (www.ovs.ny.gov) so that it is more user-friendly for victims, victims’ advocates and the public.

Established in 1966, the five-member Crime Victims Board’s mission is to “provide compensation to innocent victims of crime in a timely, efficient and compassionate manner; to fund direct services to crime victims via a network of community-based programs; and to advocate for the rights and benefits of all innocent victims of crime.”

Innocent victims of crime are eligible to file claims with the board if they meet the board’s requirements, as detailed in “A Guide to Crime Victims Compensation in New York State.” The crime for which the victim is filing a claim also must have been reported to a criminal justice agency and the victim must have cooperated in the investigation and/or prosecution of the case. Reimbursement, however, is not dependent upon conviction.

The board also provides individuals with emergency assistance if they are deemed potentially eligible for compensation benefits but would suffer undue hardship if they didn’t receive immediate payment. For example, an emergency award can facilitate a homicide victim’s family’s ability to begin making funeral arrangements, and allow rape or sexual assault victims obtain HIV post-exposure treatment medications, which are expensive and for which treatment is time sensitive.

Last year, the state enacted a law that increased the amount of emergency awards, to $2,500 from $1,500. In addition, emergency awards can be given in one lump sum, instead of being disbursed in increments that couldn’t exceed $500 at any one time.

“The new emergency assistance law has gone a long way toward helping us ensure that crime victims across New York State get the assistance and services they need, not just in the long-term, but in the immediate aftermath of a crime,” Stanford said.

“In some instances, people are living paycheck to paycheck. When they are suddenly hit with additional expenses or are unable to work because they have been victimized, obtaining emergency assistance can be crucial to their well-being,” she added.

The board granted 413 emergency awards totaling $285,715 in 2006-07. Funding for compensation to crime victims comes from a combination of state and federal monies. The state portion comes from the Criminal Justice Improvement Account, which is funded by mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees assessed on certain offenders.

In addition to the new law that increased the amount of emergency awards provided by the Crime Victims Board, several other new laws that enhance victims’ rights took effect last year.

In August, the state enacted a law that allows New York’s courts to order that defendants indicted on sexual offense charges be tested for HIV. Previously, victims could only request and receive such information when defendants were convicted. The law also requires hospitals to inform victims that they may be eligible to receive reimbursement for costly HIV treatments from the Crime Victims Board.

On Nov. 1, the state enacted the country’s most comprehensive law to combat human trafficking. The new law creates a Class B felony for those who engage in sex trafficking and a Class D felony for those who engage in labor trafficking.

The human trafficking law also removes legal ambiguities to ensure that prosecutors can bring charges against purveyors of so-called “prostitution tourism,” establishes a broad range of services for victims and creates an Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, which brings together 10 state agencies, including the Crime Victims Board, committed to enforcing the new law through a unified and coordinated effort.

The task force, co-chaired by Denise E. O’Donnell, commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and assistant secretary for criminal justice, and David A. Hansell, commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, is charged with coordinating the implementation of the law, collecting data on trafficking and developing best practices for training and community outreach to help law enforcement, service providers and the general public recognize situations where trafficking is occurring.

Stanford also serves on the state’s Commission on Sentencing Reform, an 11-member commission appointed by the governor to undertake the first comprehensive review of New York’s sentencing laws in more than 40 years. In its preliminary report released late last year, the commission recommended enacting new laws, and better enforcing existing statutes, to further protect victims of crime and enhance their rights to have a meaningful voice in the criminal justice process. The commission’s final report is due later this year.

For more information about the Crime Victims Board, eligibility requirements and a list of victim assistance programs throughout New York State, visit www.ovs.ny.gov. The Crime Victims Board’s 2006-07 annual report can be found at: http://www.ovs.ny.gov