Pennsylvania improving outreach to crime victims

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    Victims of sexual violence in Pennsylvania may receive more support as the state adopts a new approach to keeping tabs on them.

    The State Police and the Office of Victim Advocate are now sharing data to identify victims of sexual violence and contact them about changes in the status of their offenders.

    The effort has more than doubled victim registrations in the past two months, according to state officials.

    “We have now identified and registered with the Office of the Victim Advocate an additional 798 crime victims,” said state Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm. “That is 798 individuals who are now empowered, who are now informed, and who now know the status of their offender.”

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    The new registrations close a gap in State Police records, which had previously identified roughly 500 victims associated with more than 1,400 sexually violent predators on file. Now, more than 1,300 victims have been registered in association with those cases.

    Storm said she pushed for the collaboration. The State Police are mandated to register sexual violence victims, but the agency is more offender-focused. Storm said it made sense to let the Office of Victim Advocate help by sharing data and taking over victim outreach.

    It is Storm’s office, now, that is contacting victims to let them know that offenders have moved within the corrections system or are set to be released from prison. At a press conference, Storm said such notices often prompt a request for victim services, further justifying her office’s involvement.

    “Particularly in these cases when an offender is re-entering the community after a period of incarceration, safety planning is a vital component,” said Storm. “It’s vital that crime victims understand their rights and know where to access them.”

    The interagency effort is funded by a $143,000 federal grant, awarded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

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