April 22, 2013 - 9:00am
Provides crime victims and families an important safety net, funds a network of crime victims’ assistance programs statewide
As it joins the country in marking National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) today announced that it provided more than $23 million in compensation to more than 9,000 crime victims and their families in 2012, assisting those individuals with everything from payment of medical and dental bills, funeral and moving expenses, and compensation for lost wages and support.
The agency is a payer of last resort, which means that all other sources of assistance, such as medical or automobile insurance and worker’s compensation, must be exhausted before OVS can pay a victim or their family members for any out-of-pocket losses related to the crime. OVS provides assistance to eligible crime victims all at no cost to taxpayers.
The agency operates a toll-free number – 1-800-247-8035 – and has a website – www.ovs.ny.gov – that allows crime victims locate victims’ assistance programs in their communities and learn more about eligibility guidelines. View claims paid by county in 2012.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said: “New York State has long been a national leader in the crime victims’ rights movement and over the past year, we have made great progress to enhance protections for crime victims, ranging from the enactment of all-crimes DNA legislation to the passage of a series of measures that provide law enforcement with better tools to fight domestic violence and offer survivors additional help so they can more safely sever ties with their abusers. The Office of Victim Services makes a difference in so many lives, ensuring that crime victims and their families have the resources they need during a very difficult time.”
Added OVS Executive Director Tina M. Stanford: “New York State is applying new public safety solutions to new public safety challenges. Staff at OVS are proud to serve victims’ and their families’ needs, and is the one state agency that has been doing so since 1966.”
Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which began yesterday and runs through Saturday, April 27, has been recognized nationally since 1981. It is designed to call attention to the life-changing impact that crime has on its victims and their families, to highlight the services that are available to assist crime victims, and to reinforce the message that victims’ voices need to be heard throughout the criminal justice process.
The national theme for 2012 – “New Challenges. New Solutions.” – echoes new efforts nationwide to better provide assistance to crime victims, to get the thousands of crime victims who don’t report those crimes to do so and to get them the help they may need.
Funding for crime victims’ compensation – as well as the operations of OVS and grants it provides to a network of 186 victims’ assistance programs across the state – comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges, and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following conviction in New York State or federal courts. 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.
The agency paid a total of 9,106 claims last year, assisting men, women, and children in each of the state’s 62 counties, as well as out-of-state residents victimized in New York. That number represents both claims awarded and paid for the first time in 2012, as well as claims awarded in prior years – to cover ongoing medical bills, for example – that continued to be paid last year. OVS-funded victims’ assistance programs also served nearly 256,000 people statewide last year.
OVS provides assistance through three types of claims: personal injury, essential personal property, and death. The largest portion of the $23,104,532 awarded – $19,633,455 – went to cover 6,887 personal injury claims. About $3.1 million was paid on 715 death claims, while another $329,000 went to cover approximately 1,500 claims for essential personal property.
The amount of awards varies, based on each individual’s or family’s circumstances or needs. Claims are confidential under state law, but the majority of claims statewide were filed in connection with assault (47 percent), burglary/robbery/larceny (20 percent), child sex abuse (8 percent), sexual assault (8 percent), homicide (5 percent), and stalking (4 percent) cases.
Most claims – 33 percent – were for victims between the ages of 18 and 29, and the fewest – 11 percent – were for children who were 17 years old or younger.
Statewide, female victims made up more than half – 53 percent – of those whose claims were paid in 2012. Of those claims, 33 percent were paid to victims between 18 and 29; 26 percent between the ages of 30 and 44; 18 percent between the ages of 45 and 59; 14 percent, over 60 years old; and 11 percent, 17 and under.
Of the claims involving male victims: 32 percent of victims were between the ages of 18 and 29; 24 percent between the ages of 30 and 44; 18 percent between the ages of 45 and 59; 14 percent, over 60 years old; and 11 percent, 17 and under.
There is a cap on some payments made by the agency. The maximum amount for a loss of wages or support claim is $30,000; $6,000 for funeral expenses; and $500 for essential personal property losses. There is no cap, however, on medical or therapy payments. For example, if an individual suffers a traumatic brain injury as a result of a crime, and he or she is deemed eligible for assistance, the agency will pay medical bills indefinitely.
Forensic rape examination claims are the exception to the agency’s payer of last resort rule. OVS will directly reimburse providers, such as hospitals, for the cost of exams when victims do not have access to private health insurance, or if they choose not to use their private health care insurance to pay for the exams. This ensures the personal privacy of sexual assault victims. In those cases, the agency paid 5,663 forensic rape examination claims for victims in New York State’s 62 counties, for a total of more than $4.4 million last year.
OVS also provides emergency assistance to individuals if they are deemed potentially eligible for compensation but would suffer undue hardship if they did not receive immediate payment. In those cases, 549 emergency awards were made, which amounted to more than $1.1 million. Such emergency awards 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 in order to be effective.