Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith, President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, is joining law enforcement leaders throughout the nation in observing “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” from April 22 to 28, 2012.
One of the most important tools to protect victims is the New York State Sheriffs’ Victim’s Hotline. This program, commonly known as the Victim Information and Notification Everyday, or “VINE” program, has been in existence since 1999. It offers crime victims the right to be notified when the offender who harmed them is released from jail or prison. It is a confidential service, offered as a public service to New York residents who are crime victims. The “VINE” program gives victims and other concerned citizens instant access to the custody status of offenders in jail and provides automated telephone and email messages on any change in the inmate’s custody status.
According to Sheriff Smith, last year there were nearly 600,000 phone calls and more than 42,000 email inquiries received by the “VINE” program from more than 85,000 registered victims taking advantage of the “VINE” service. “This is a vital service that enhances the personal safety of those who have been victimized and helps protect them from being re-offended by their alleged or convicted attacker,” said Sheriff Smith.
This year’s theme, “Extending the Vision, Reaching Every Victim” is a reminder that we, as a society, must not only celebrate our accomplishments but continue to expand our efforts in serving crime victims. There was a time when crime victims had no voice in the criminal justice system. They were excluded from courtrooms, were forced to pay their own medical bills and were not eligible to receive compensation of any degree. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week reminds us of the strides made by victims and their advocates responsible for these important improvements. There is, however, more work that must be done.
Currently every state has a Victims’ Bill of Rights compensation program, 32 states have victims’ rights constitutional amendments and more than 10,000 victim assistance programs operate in communities across the nation. “In Putnam County we are blessed by having organizations like the Putnam-Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center who are there for victims in time of need,” said Sheriff Smith.
Sheriff Smith urges anyone interested in participating in the New York State Sheriff’s Victims’ Hotline program, or those seeking more information about the program to visit the “VINE” website , call (toll free) 1-888-VINE-4-NY or contact Captain Robert LeFever at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division by calling 225-5255.