7

Protecting and Supporting

Victims of Crime

Every crime can have a significant and long-lasting impact on surviving victims and families of victims. Over the past few decades, great strides have been made in protecting and supporting victims of crime. With the help of federal funding and other assistance, a network of service providers has been established across the country to help victims deal with the impact of crime on their lives. In FY 2000, OJP continued its exploration of the unmet needs of victims, particularly the underserved populations - the disabled, the elderly, Native Americans, rural, and immigrant victims.

ASSISTING VICTIMS

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) is the federal government's chief advocate for crime victims and their families. OVC provides funding for approximately 4,100 victim assistance programs serving 2.5 million crime victims each year and state victim compensation programs that serve an additional 200,000 victims. Fines collected in one year by U.S. Attorneys, the U.S. Courts, and the Bureau of Prisons are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund, which is supported solely by fines paid by federal criminal offenders, not taxpayers, and are available for grant awards the following year. In June 2000, OVC awarded a total of $451.5 million in FY 2000 funds to crime victim assistance and victim compensation programs in all 50 states and six territories. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking also receive assistance under six grant programs administered by the Violence Against Women Office (see chapter 4).

IMPROVING EMERGENCY AND LONG-TERM SERVICES TO VICTIMS OF TERRORISM

Acts of terrorism resulting in mass casualties have a wide and traumatic impact on communities and residents. It has become clear that United States citizens are not immune from these crimes, either at home or outside the borders of this country. Each act of terrorism presents unique challenges that are specific to the victims, the event itself, and the progress of the criminal investigation and prosecution. Providing services to the victims of each terrorism event teaches additional and important lessons for responding to future events and expands our base of knowledge for serving victims more effectively.

In October 2000, OVC released Responding to Terrorism Victims: Oklahoma City and Beyond, which identifies the special measures needed to protect the rights and meet the needs of victims of a large-scale terrorist attack involving mass casualties. In particular, the report emphasizes that when the federal government responds to acts of terrorism involving massive casualties, victims' rights must be upheld, and victims' short- and long-term emotional and psychological needs must be met. A number of individuals involved in providing services to the Oklahoma City bombing victims contributed their insights and experiences to this report, in addition to OVC staff who have been directly involved in working with victims of other acts of terrorism. Underlying their insights and efforts have been the voices of the surviving victims and families of the victims of Oklahoma City, Khobar Towers, the embassy bombings, and Pan Am Flight 103.

In 1996, the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act became law. The act authorized OVC to assist victims of terrorism by using monies from the federal Crime Victims Fund to pay for emergency medical and psychological services for victims, victim advocacy throughout the criminal justice proceedings, and limited financial compensation for costs incurred by victims as a result of terrorism.

Terrorist acts against Americans also occur beyond our nation's borders - as evidenced by the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the Pam Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, signed into law in 2000, enables OVC to provide more assistance to these victims by expanding the types of assistance for which the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) emergency reserve fund may be used and the range of organizations to which assistance may be provided. These changes do not require new or appropriated monies; they simply allow OVC greater flexibility in using existing reserve funds to assist victims of terrorism abroad. The act authorizes OVC to raise the cap on the VOCA emergency reserve fund from $50 million to $100 million, so that the fund is large enough to cover the extraordinary costs that would be incurred if a terrorist act caused massive casualties. Together, the 1996 Victims of Terrorism Act and the 2000 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act have enhanced the federal government's capacity to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of victims of terrorist acts, whether that act occurs within or beyond our national borders.

HELPING TO MEET THE NEEDS OF VICTIMS

How people cope as victims of crime depends largely on their experiences immediately following the crime. The way in which law enforcement officers initially respond to victims is critical in determining how victims cope in both the short and long term. This interaction also strongly influences victims' participation in the investigation and prosecution of the crime, and increases the likelihood that they will report future offenses to law enforcement.

In March 2000, OVC released a new handbook to help law enforcement officers better understand and meet the needs of crime victims. First Response to Victims of Crime provides law enforcement officers basic guidelines when approaching and interacting with elderly victims, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, child victims, and survivors of homicide. Prepared by the National Sheriffs' Association with funding from OVC, the handbook also addresses issues that arise during the initial contact between officers and victims.

Other OJP efforts focus on child victims. In May 1998, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide, to provide critical information for families to use in working with law enforcement, media, and volunteers to find a missing child. OJJDP has provided copies of this Guide to every U.S. law enforcement agency, every public library, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, each state's missing children's clearinghouse, and other nonprofit organizations. To date, OJJDP has distributed over 50,000 copies.

In response to the growing Spanish-speaking population in the United States, OJJDP released a Spanish translation of the When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide entitled, Cuando su Niño Desaparece: Una Guía Para la Supervivencia de la Familia, in April 2000. Now Spanish-speaking people who are not comfortable with English will have quick access to this information without having to depend on someone to translate for them. OJJDP distributed 42,000 copies of the Spanish translation targeting law enforcement agencies and libraries in predominantly Spanish-speaking areas, as well as national Hispanic organizations.

UNDERSTANDING AND PREVENTING VICTIMIZATION OF ELDERS

In January 2000, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released the report, Crimes against Persons Age 65 or Older, 1992-97. It found that people 65 and older are substantially less likely to be violent crime victims than are younger men and women. Each year from 1992 through 1997, there were 5 violent crimes per 1,000 U.S. residents 65 years old or older, less than a tenth the rate of 56 crimes per 1,000 of those age 12 through 64, according to the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The only crime category that affected the elderly at about the same rate as most others (except those ages 12-24) was personal theft, which includes purse snatching and pocket picking. Although people 65 or older made up 15 percent of the population, they accounted for 7 percent of all victims of crimes measured in the survey.

OJP was an active participant in the Justice Department's Elder Justice Initiative. The primary objective of this initiative was to enhance enforcement, training, coordination, and awareness regarding the problems of elder abuse, fraud, and exploitation; create the infrastructure for broad-based collaboration at the national policy level, as well as at the state and grass roots levels; and to bridge the historical gap between those on the front lines, who see the problems first hand, and those charged with enforcing the law.

Building on these efforts, on October 30-31, 2000, the Justice Department - in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services - convened a national symposium on preventing and responding to the victimization of older persons. The symposium, "Our Aging Population: Promoting Empowerment, Preventing Victimization, and Implementing Coordinated Interventions," showcased federal, state, and local programs designed to prevent older people from becoming victims of abuse, exploitation, fraud, and neglect. It also focused on improving the response of law enforcement and social service agencies when victimization does occur. Financial exploitation and consumer fraud, domestic/community abuse and neglect, and institutional abuse and neglect were the three primary issues addressed at the symposium.

The Blackfeet Nation received OVC funding in FY 2000 to continue its development of a coordinated response to crimes against the elderly by adapting the Triad program approach to Indian country. Triad is a joint effort of the American Association of Retired Persons, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriffs' Association to build coordinated services for elderly victims of crime. Triad combines the efforts and resources of law enforcement, senior citizens and organizations that represent them, and victim assistance providers.

BJA continued to support a consortium of prevention, education, and prosecution projects working to thwart fraudulent telemarketers who prey on senior citizens. A major component of the project is the Telemarketing Fraud Training Task Force, a multiagency committee led by the National Association of Attorneys General. The Task Force includes the National District Attorneys Association through the American Prosecutors Research Institute, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the American Association of Retired Persons Foundation. The Task Force works to broaden criminal and civil enforcement efforts by increasing the numbers of state and local telemarketing prosecutions; coordinate statewide and local investigations and prosecutions; enhance technical and case preparation assistance for state and local prosecutors; and increase U.S.-Canada cooperation to reduce the cross-border flow of telemarketing fraud.

In addition, members of the Task Force provided training to five BJA-funded demonstration sites that have implemented innovative telemarketing prevention and enforcement programs. The programs are located in Los Angeles, California, Atlanta, Georgia, Hillsborough County (Tampa), Florida, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Montpelier, Vermont.

RECOGNIZING SERVICE TO VICTIMS

Presented annually by OVC, the Crime Victims Fund Award recognizes federal employees whose work increased deposits into the Crime Victims Fund and substantially improved federal criminal debt collection. On September 20, 2000, the Attorney General honored three individuals and four teams of federal employees from nine states whose efforts resulted in record deposits to the Crime Victims Fund, which finances services for millions of crime victims across the nation. A Dallas team from the Justice Department's Antitrust Division received an award for prosecuting an international vitamin cartel and exacting two fines, $225 million and $500 million, which was the largest amount the Justice Department has obtained in a criminal case. Other award recipients included a team from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts, which collected the largest fine ever recorded in a health care fraud case and the largest fine in any case in New England's history. Funds deposited into the Crime Victims fund in FY 1999 totaled $985 million, of which $500 million was available in FY 2000.

TRAINING VICTIM SERVICE PROFESSIONALS

National Victim Assistance Academy

Over 350 victim services professionals completed a week-long intensive training at the sixth annual National Victim Assistance Academy sponsored by OVC in June 2000. The training was aimed at improving direct services to victims by informing victim service professionals about the latest techniques and programs in the field. The 2000 class included participants from the criminal justice system, domestic violence, sexual assault, and child victimization advocates, and those who serve elderly victims, survivors of homicide victims, and victims of juvenile offenders. This class also included federal Victim-Witness Coordinators from U.S. Attorneys' Offices and representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, Bureau of Prisons, State Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Postal Inspector's Office, and the U.S. Capitol Police. Students can earn academic credit through select universities by taking this course. To date, 137 students have taken the program for undergraduate credit and 203 students have received graduate credit. Between 1995 and 1999, 340 students earned academic credit. OVC funds the Academy through a grant from the Crime Victims Fund.

Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance

On January 31, 2000, the latest edition of the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance went into effect. These guidelines outline requirements for federal employees whose job responsibilities involve contact with crime victims. Last published in 1995, the Attorney General Guidelines have been revised to be more user-friendly. By providing real life anecdotes, the guidelines answer such questions as, "Who is the victim of a given crime?" and "Can a victim be a witness?"

In addition to becoming more user-friendly, the guidelines were changed to reflect an Office of Legal Counsel opinion from last year that found that Justice Department employees are required by law, not just as standard policy, to provide victims with many of the services defined in the victims' rights laws. DOJ employees who work with crime victims have a mandatory responsibility to identify victims, inform victims about how to obtain various forms of assistance, developments in the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of the offender, and arrange reasonable protection for victims from offenders. In addition to outlining mandatory victim services, the guidelines also suggest ways to deliver these services to victims.

Furthermore, during FY 2000 the Office of the Comptroller presented a financial management training module as part of OVC's Victim Assistance in Indian Country conference, which was attended by approximately 35 recipients.

IMPROVING UNDERSTANDING OF CHILD VICTIMIZATION

Only 28 percent of violent crimes against children are reported to law enforcement, according to Reporting Crimes Against Juveniles, an OJJDP bulletin released in November 1999. The bulletin relies upon data derived from victim reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which covers approximately 55,000 households and 100,000 individuals, including children ages 12 to 17 and adults. The NCVS indicates that:

Even when taking into account such reported instances, juvenile victimizations are still less likely to be made known to authorities than adult victimizations. The most common reasons offered by children for not notifying the police of the crimes were similar to those cited by adults - they reported the crime to another official, saw the crime as a private matter, or viewed the incident as minor or unsuccessful, in that they saw it as an attempted crime.

OJJDP released another bulletin in July 2000 that revealed that children are more likely to be kidnaped by acquaintances - people they know but who are not family members - than by complete strangers. Although kidnaping by a family member is more prevalent than either acquaintance or stranger abduction, it is kidnaping by an acquaintance that is the most likely to result in violence.

The bulletin, Kidnaping of Juveniles: Patterns From NIBRS (National Incident-Based Reporting System), shows that:

The new findings are from1997 data submitted by law enforcement agencies in 12 states as part of the FBI's NIBRS, which collects detailed information on crimes known to the police, including kidnaping. The bulletin was prepared for OJJDP by New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Back to Table of Contents