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March-April 2011

Great news as we go to press!

Suzanne McDaniel

TDCAA Victim Services Director in Austin

The Texas Attorney General  is prioritizing funding for coordinator and liaison grants and has posted application information on its website at www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/grants .shtml. Eligible applicants who complete the registration and application process may be awarded up to $42,000 per year for the next biennium, which is September 1, 2011, through August 31, 2013. The Victim Coordinator Liaison Grant program’s purpose is to fund mandated positions described in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Articles 56.02 and 56.04, specifically Victim Assistance Coordinators in prosecutor offices and Crime Victim Liaisons in law enforcement agencies. The intent of these grant funds is to encourage victims to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecution by providing essential information about the criminal justice system, social service referrals, and post-adjudication processes. The funds are also used to promote and educate the community and other professionals about victim rights and services to identify crime victims and provide the needed services.

    There are two important deadlines to remember. Applicants must register at www.oag.state.tx.us/vic-tims/grants.shtml before 5:00 p.m. CST, on Monday, March 14, 2011. After completing registration, you may download the application and submit it in the approved manner and format by 5:00 p.m. CST, Friday, April 1, 2011.

    For more information, please visit the Office of the Attorney General website at www.oag.state.tx.us/ victims/grants.shtml, or call Jennifer McShane Ferguson at 512/936-1278. You can also contact me at mcdaniel ( a t ) tdcaa ( d o t ) com.

Timely articles in this issue

The weather outside may have been frightful the first weeks of February, but it is finally clearing. What isn’t clearing is the criminal justice caseload and what is expected of crime victim assistance coordinators. Shrinking budgets and resources have piled on the duties for coordinators. This issue of the journal contains two articles that highlight some of those duties. Stacy Miles-Thorpe in the Travis County DA’s Office offers the background behind the passage of Senate Bill 560 which provides for juror counseling via the coordinator. As she notes, the measure was enacted without funding. Travis County and Dallas County have developed inexpensive measures to proactively address this mandate.

    Kudos to Adrienne Frazior for her cover article on Continuous Family Violence prosecution, where she notes that the prosecutor and coordinator should work as a team. The coordinator usually has earlier and more consistent contact with the victim and can provide important information including current contact data. I also believe that this kind of contact establishes trust in prosecution and can prevent dropped charges. The article is also timely as we received two calls about going forward without a victim on the day I reviewed it. Also please remember that if the victim does refuse to cooperate, you can contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Division, and that office will end benefit payments.

Teen dating violence resources

There is a growing understanding that violence within relationships often begins during adolescence. Each year, about one in four teens report being the victim of verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual violence. Abusive relationships can impact adolescent development, and teens who experience dating violence may suffer long-term negative behavioral and health consequences. (This information is from Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships, National Institute of Justice, 2008).

    To help bring greater awareness to the dangers and consequences of teen dating violence, the National Criminal Justice Reference Services has created an online compilation of publications and resources on the topic at www.ncjrs.gov/teendating violence.

2011 National Crime ­Victim Rights Week

We have begun meeting with representatives of statewide organizations to start planning the annual observance of Crime Victim Rights Week in Austin the week of April 10–16. These meetings always provide a chance to catch up on current policies and share problems and solutions. I’m sure your experience is much the same as you get together with law enforcement, advocacy centers, and social service agencies to prepare for your community event.

    To help you plan your local observance, the Office for Victims of Crime has posted its online resource guide at ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw2011/ index.html. The guide contains everything you need to issue a press release, request a proclamation, or host an event. It even contains sample speeches, quotes, and camera-ready art, all in a user-friendly format. Please let us know about your plans for Crime Victim Rights Week and send in your photos so that we can share them in future issues.

Visionaries wanted

First there was the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime Recommendations in 1982. The Department of Justice hosted seven national hearings to assess the need for victim services. We hosted one of the hearings in Houston with testimony from then-Judge Ted Poe. These recommendations led to the establishment of the Office for Victims of Crime, the Victims of Crime Act, and VOCA funding. It should also be noted that the judge is now Congressman Judge Poe and co-founder of the U.S. Congressional Crime Victim Caucus. The 1980s brought an update on the recommendations, “New Directions for the Field.” Several Texans contributed to this effort and helped established guidelines and standards for victim services.

    Now the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime is launching “Vision 21” to “expand the vision and impact of the crime victim services field.” In simple language, authorities want to make sure that our resources are used in the best way. Four national programs have been awarded grants to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the current state of the field. A fifth grantee will synthesize the report and recommendations, including a blueprint for a demonstration project to implement those recommendations for OVC and the broader crime victims field.

    Your input is invaluable and much-needed. Texas has a lot of experience with making lemonade from lemons for crime victims, and it’s easy to share that experience. You can learn more about the project and email your comments at ovc.ncjrs .org/vision21/index.html. As always, please give me a call at 512/474-2436 if you have any questions about Vision 21 or any other topic. I really enjoy hearing from you.