Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Crime Victims Board
(518) 457-8906 or (518) 275-5508 – cell
janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov
For immediate release: Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008

NOTE: MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Crime Victims Board Chairwoman Tina M. Stanford is available for interviews today; to schedule an interview, contact Janine Kava at janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov or (518) 457-8906.

NYS Crime Victims Board improves claims processing time, provides more than $27 million to assist crime victims and their families in 2007-08

The New York State Crime Victims Board continued to improve its claims processing time and provided more than $27 million to crime victims and their families – including payment of medical and funeral expenses, compensation for lost wages and reimbursement for essential personal property such as eyeglasses – during the 2007-08 fiscal year.

The board’s activities for last fiscal year were outlined in its 2007-08 annual report, which was submitted to Governor David A. Paterson and members of the state Legislature earlier this month.

The Crime Victims Board handles personal injury and death claims, as well as claims for essential personal property. The processing time for essential personal property claims, which reimburse victims for the repair or replacement of items damaged or lost as the result of a crime, such as eyeglasses, cash or clothing, has been cut in half during the past two years, since the implementation of an automated, online claims processing system. On average, it now takes the board approximately 30 days – instead of 70 – to process those claims.

The board also began automating its personal injury and death claims during the 2007-08 fiscal year. The average processing time for these claims, which can be complicated and paperwork intense depending on the type of medical care a crime victim received, for example, currently stands at approximately 80 days; it had been double that in prior fiscal years.

“New York State has long been national leader in the crime victims’ rights movement, as evidenced by the fact that in 1966, it became only the second state in the nation to establish an independent agency for crime victims’ compensation,” Governor Paterson said. “The Crime Victims Board provides an important safety net for men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have been victimized. While the help the state provides can never erase what has happened, it can go a long way toward ensuring that victims have the assistance they need to rebuild their lives.”

Crime Victims Board Chairwoman Tina M. Stanford said: “The Crime Victims Board’s key mission is very clear – to provide compensation to innocent victims of crime in a timely, efficient and compassionate manner. The board and its staff are committed to doing everything we can to improve our processes and ensure that crime victims know that help is available. By working in partnership with law enforcement and victims’ services agencies across the state, it is my hope that we will be able to reach more New Yorkers who can benefit from the board’s assistance.” 

Funding for compensation to crime victims, as well as grant money to support victims’ assistance programs in nearly every county in New York State, comes from the state and federal government, generated by fines, mandatory surcharges, and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders pay after conviction in either state or federal court. For example, an individual convicted of a felony in New York State must pay a $300 mandatory surcharge and a $25 crime victim assistance fee.     
             
During the 2007-08 fiscal year, the board received 13,602 claims: 9,437 personal injury claims; 3,251 essential personal property claims; and 914 death claims.

  • Nearly half of the personal injury and death claims were filed from the five counties in New York City. The greatest number of personal injury and death claims in the state – 1,282 – came from Brooklyn (Kings County); Hamilton County had the fewest, with only one.
  • More than half of the essential personal property claims were filed from individuals living outside of New York City. Erie County led the state in claims for essential personal property, with 626, while three counties, Cayuga, Seneca and Steuben, had none. Note: Additional county detail can be found on pages 27-28 of report.

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

In 2007-08, the board made a total of 13,564 awards to crime victims and/or their family members; the amount of each award varied, depending on each individual’s circumstances or needs. Awards assist victims and their families in a variety of ways, including paying for unreimbursed medical and funeral expenses, lost earnings or support, crime scene clean-up, court transportation expenses, moving expenses, and counseling expenses, all of which must be crime-related.

Of those awards, 436 were made on an emergency basis, typically within 24 hours of claims being filed. In 2007-08, the state enacted a law that increased the emergency award limit from $1,500 to $2,500.

The board grants emergency assistance to individuals if they are deemed potentially eligible for compensation benefits but would suffer undue hardship if they didn’t receive immediate payment. An emergency award can allow a homicide victim’s family to make funeral arrangements or provide sexual assault victims with HIV post-exposure treatment medications, which are expensive and need to be taken in a timely manner to be effective. 

In addition to directly compensating victims, the Crime Victims Board provided more than $29.4 million in funding to 195 victims’ assistance programs across the state in 2007-08. 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 and arranging for legal assistance and transportation; to assistance with filing for compensation. 

The board also is a prime source of funding for the state Department of Correctional Services’ Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) program, which allows victims to use a touch-tone phone to get information about inmates in the department’s custody, and to register for notification of the offender’s release, escape, death, and/or participation in a furlough or temporary release programs. The board provided $292,300 for the VINE program last year.

All told, the board served 230,000 crime victims across the state, from rural Cattaraugus and Herkimer counties to the five boroughs of New York City, and everywhere in between. In addition to improving its claims processing time, the board took several other steps to improve services to victims, including updating and distributing, for the first time in recent memory, a poster outlining the board’s services to every police station, district attorney’s office, hospital, and victims’ assistance program in the state, and redesigning its website (www.ovs.ny.gov).

To view the board’s 2007-08 annual report in its entirety, visit the board’s website and click on “Forms and Publications” and then "Annual Reports."


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