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OVS seeks feedback from crime victims, service providers

July 26, 2016 - 1:30pm

The New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) is seeking feedback from crime victims and service providers to gauge the type of civil legal services that are critical to assist victims in communities across the state outside of New York City

Contact:

For Immediate Release

Janine Kava | janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov | (518) 457-8906
Press Office | Office of Victim Services  

The New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) is seeking feedback from crime victims and service providers to gauge the type of civil legal services that are critical to assist victims in communities across the state outside of New York City. The agency is hosting focus groups and distributing surveys this summer as a first step toward establishing the Crime Victims Legal Network, a unique online tool that will allow individuals to determine the type of legal help they need and then connect them with resources to ensure their interests are represented.

“The first step in establishing the Crime Victims Legal Network is pinpointing the areas Upstate and on Long Island where civil legal representation is most needed,” OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin said. “This assessment will help identify areas where crime victims dealing with civil matters are slipping through the cracks and attempting to resolve their problems without help or proper representation.”

The Office of Victim Services is partnering with the Empire Justice Center, the University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research, and Pro Bono Net to perform the comprehensive assessment and establish the network. The project is funded through two grants totaling $999,940 from the federal Office for Victims of Crime, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

UAlbany’s Center for Human Services Research has two surveys online: one for crime victims (English: bit.ly/cvsurveynys and Spanish: bit.ly/nyscvsurveyespanol) and another for service providers (bit.ly/svpsurveynys). Hard copies of the survey for crime victims also are available at community locations, including libraries and social service agencies, and are available in Arabic, Burmese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian, Somalian, simple Chinese, and traditional Chinese.

As another way to obtain feedback, the Center for Human Services has focus groups across the state scheduled for the upcoming weeks. The groups will discuss barriers, gaps, and civil legal needs of crime victims with the goal of further shaping the development of the online network. The focus groups are confidential and information shared by participants will not be attributed to them in any resulting reports. The first focus groups were conducted in Poughkeepsie on July 26. Other focus groups are slated for the following dates and locations:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 3: Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York in Utica
  • Wednesday, Aug. 10: Nassau Suffolk Legal Services in Islandia
  • Thursday, Aug. 11: The Safe Center in Bethpage
  • Monday, Aug. 15: Meals on Wheels in Buffalo
  • Tuesday, Aug. 16: Monroe County Crime Victims Resource Center in Rochester
  • Wednesday, Aug. 24: The American Legion in Watertown
  • Monday, Aug. 29 and Tuesday Aug. 30: The Legal Project in Albany
  • Thursday, Sept. 1: The Occupational Health Clinic Center of the Southern Tier in Binghamton
  • The final focus group will be held at the Clinton County Government Center in Plattsburgh, at a date to be scheduled.

Please Dr. Susan Dietzel at sdeitzel@albany.edu for more information about the focus groups or to RSVP to attend.

In addition, the Center is interviewing legal professionals for their perspective and input on the topic. Information gathered through the surveys, focus groups and interviews will complement research being done by Center staff. An advisory committee of crime victim advocates, researchers, law enforcement officials and other leaders from community-based organizations is guiding the assessment process.

Once the assessment is complete, the partners will begin designing a comprehensive legal services system that links existing resources – such as pro-bono legal clinics, law schools and private attorneys – with crime victims in need of civil legal aid. This work is expected to begin sometime this fall. Creation of the network is a multi-phased project estimated to be completed sometime in fall 2017.

The Crime Victims Legal Network’s online tool will help individuals determine what assistance is available, whether they can proceed with a civil matter with only legal advice or if they require representation by an attorney. After their specific needs are identified, individuals will be connected with the appropriate services for their circumstances. Attorneys representing crime victims’ civil interests also will advocate for victim’s rights in criminal proceedings to the extent allowed by New York law.

The network is being designed to help individuals outside of New York City, as that is where the need exists. While the Office of Victim Services funds a network of 223 crime victim assistance programs that serve individuals in every county of the state, fewer than 10 percent of those programs offer legal help with civil matters.

That lack of services, particularly in rural areas across the state, results in many individuals pursuing civil litigation without a lawyer. A recent study by the state Office of Court Administration found that roughly 1.8 million New Yorkers – many of them either low-income individuals or families – are involved in civil litigation without legal representation.

The Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) has a three-tiered mission to provide compensation to innocent victims of crime, fund direct services to crime victims through a network of community-based programs and to advocate for the rights of all innocent victims of crime. For more information about services offered by OVS, including eligibility guidelines and a list of victim assistance programs that provide direct help to crime victims across all 62 counties in New York, visit the agency’s website or call 1-800-247-8035.

The mission of the Empire Justice Center (www.empirejustice.org) is to protect and strengthen the legal rights of the poor, disabled or disenfranchised through advocacy, training to other advocates, and high-quality direct civil legal representation.

The Center for Human Services Research (www.albany.edu/chsr) is part of UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare and has more than 20 years of experience conducting evaluation research, designing information systems, and informing policy and program development for a broad spectrum of agencies serving vulnerable populations.

Pro Bono Net (www.probono.net) is based in New York City and is a nonprofit leader in developing innovative technology and forging collaborations to increase access to justice.

The creation of the Crime Victims Legal Network being funded under Grant No. 2014-XV-BX-K009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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