Law Enforcement’s Role in Victim Compensation
Law enforcement officers, often the first and possibly the only professionals to speak to victims following a crime, are a vital component in providing justice, information, and services to crime victims. Law enforcement provides a critical connection between the justice system and victim support services, ensuring that victims know about all available resources.
Law enforcement officers, often the first and possibly the only professionals to speak to victims following a crime, are a vital component in providing justice, information, and services to crime victims. Law enforcement provides a critical connection between the justice system and victim support services, ensuring that victims know about all available resources. IACP has created resources which include training videos for first responders, investigators, and executive leadership; companion guides to accompany each video and guide discussions; tip cards for law enforcement; and more.
Each U.S. state and territory has enacted legislation that provides compensation for unreimbursed costs incurred by victims of violent crimes and, in some cases, property crimes. All federal funds (and most state funds) supplying the compensation fund come from convicted offenders—through fines, fees, assessments, or restitution. Law enforcement officers can help victims of crime recover by referring them to the compensation program and responding to requests from the compensation program.
Violent crimes for which victims are eligible for compensation include, but are not limited to, assault, domestic violence, rape, child abuse, and alcohol-impaired driving. Indirect victims, such as family members of homicide victims and crime witnesses, are also eligible to apply in some programs. Eligibility, reimbursable benefits, maximum claim amounts, and application procedures vary by state or county. While no amount of money can undo the harm caused by crime, compensation programs allow victims to focus on their physical and emotional recovery, with less financial stress.
Law enforcement often holds the important position of being the first point of contact to offer compassion and resources for victims following a crime. A first responder is not expected to know the ways that trauma or crime will impact a victim, but he or she can help by being a source of information and link to resources, including crime victim compensation programs.
Law enforcement personnel play a critical role in the process of informing crime victims about available financial compensation programs. The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards (NACVCB) reports that each year, state compensation programs are paying out close to $500 million annually to more than 200,000 victims. However, this figure pales in comparison to the estimated 1.16 million violent crimes reported to law enforcement in 2013. It appears that victim compensation may not be reaching all victims in need.
The primary goal of the project is to develop and deliver training, technical assistance, and resources to law enforcement to support crime victims’ access to compensation. Additionally, the project emphasizes an understanding of the current state of practice to identify gaps in the process attributable to law enforcement such as ensuring that investigative reports are filed in a timely manner and include the information necessary to meet state eligibility requirements.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police, in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Police Foundation, and funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, will improve law enforcement’s knowledge and understanding of victim compensation and the programs/requirements in their respective states so that they can responsibly inform victims of available resources.
This webinar recording explains what victim compensation is, why law enforcement needs to be aware of it, and what law enforcement can do to support victims and compensation programs. Chief Fred Fletcher (ret.) and Scott Beard, the Deputy Director of South Carolina’s victim compensation program, bring their decades of experience to discuss available resources and strategies for improving law enforcement’s knowledge and understanding of crime victim compensation as well as real-world examples of how it works.
These short instructional videos explain the law enforcement role in connecting victims with crime victim compensation programs. Each video has a corresponding discussion guide with suggestions and information on how to use the video as a training resource. Each video is tailored for a specific audience: first responders, investigators, and law enforcement leaders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Crime victim compensation programs have different regulations in every state. Our Frequently Asked Questions guide can help you answer general questions about victim compensation.
Report Writing Tip Cards
The police report is an essential component of a compensation claim. The details provided in the report help validate the claim and provide documentation of what was lost due to victimization. Our sample tip card has guidance on what to include in a report to support a victim’s compensation claim and is meant as an example of what an agency should create for itself.
Victim Pocket Card
This card is meant to be customized by individual law enforcement agencies. Agencies can print these cards for officers to give to victims when officers explain that victims may be eligible to have certain crime-related expenses reimbursed by crime victim compensation and to help connect victims with advocates.
Community relations is an important part of law enforcement. These sample blog posts, social media tip sheet, and mock webpage support law enforcement agencies to connect with their communities and spread the word about victim compensation.
Contact Heather Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 647-7308 for more information.
This webpage was produced by the International Association of Chiefs of Police under Cooperative Agreement No. 2015-VF-GX-K006, 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 in this document 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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