Few individuals could have predicted how technology would support the present-day victims' movement. For example, OVC uses its Web site and e-mailing lists to inform and to provide easy access to online publications, funding resources, services, promising program strategies, and training resources. To further the use of technology, OVC funds various initiatives that promote cooperation among service providers. Information sharing among victim service agencies at the state and local levels creates a critical, seamless network of victim services. Automated notification systems are an effective method of informing victims about the status of their cases and the subsequent release of perpetrators.
In addition to these uses of technology, the Crime Victims Fund supports initiatives that promote the use of technology in delivering training and technical assistance and in processing expense reimbursement claims for victims of international terrorism.
VS2000 System Information Technology Project
In 1997, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) began developing Victim Services 2000 (VS2000), a 5-year demonstration project to create model systems for victim service delivery. VS2000 was established to improve the range, quality, and accessibility of services for all victims through the development of integrated victim service systems in urban and rural settings. VS2000 has three technological components: resource directory management, agency training registration, and case management for community agencies. OVC provided funding to the Denver Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement Board in 2003 to further expand these components, and funded a pilot test of the system in Denver, Colorado. OVC is currently evaluating the replication specifications to determine the most effective means of facilitating the programs' use by interested communities across the Nation. To view the Denver system, including an online newsletter, description of the VS2000 model development, resource center, and other components, visit the VS2000 Web site.
Also see the OVC Bulletin, Making Collaboration Work: The Experiences of Denver Victim Services 2000.
Online Directory of Crime Victim Services
In 2003, OVC launched its online Directory of Crime Victim Services for victims and service providers and its use and expansion continue today. The directory includes more than 8,000 service providers who address various victim needs. It offers a centralized, searchable database of victim assistance programs nationwide; users may search by location, type of victimization, service needed, and agency type. OVC continually updates the database with new programs that have been carefully screened. New programs may enroll online. View the online directory.
OVC Web Forum
In early 2004, OVC launched a Web forum, the OVC Message Board To Help Exchange Lessons and Practices (HELP) in Victim Services, to link victim service providers and allied professionals with colleagues throughout the Nation who face similar challenges and experiences. An online bulletin board, the OVC Web Forum, allows peer-to-peer dialogue on innovative practices and services in victim assistance. Guest hosts are featured each month, allowing participants to ask questions of and receive insight from nationally recognized experts on the featured topic. Guest hosts have covered such topics as helping child victims, assisting victims of identity theft, assisting victims of drunk and drugged driving, and managing “compassion fatigue.”
In 2005, OVC launched an expanded forum, featuring new tools to enhance collaboration. New features include the following:
- OVC News and Announcements: Reports current OVC-focused initiatives and relevant topics and events with a primary focus on best practices.
- Search Engine: Scans and retrieves posts by topic of interest, keywords, or date.
- Hot Topics: Features posts from unique users or forum topics that are relevant to current events in victim assistance.
- Post of the Month: Highlights a post that expresses information of value to the online community and contributes to the body of knowledge concerning crime victims and best practices.
For more details, visit the OVC Web Forum.
OVC's Web Site
OVC's Web site is its most vital link with its constituents. The site is accessed by victims, victim advocates, state VOCA1 administrators and subrecipients, discretionary grantees, educators, policymakers, and the general public. It is the main portal to the vast resources that are available through OVC, including—
- The OVC Web Forum, providing an interactive message board for the field.
- “Featured Resources,” highlighting a new topic each month.
- “Grants and Funding,” including the “Discretionary Toolbox,” a one-stop resource for information on solicitations, compliance and monitoring requirements, and financial information for grantees.
- “Help for Victims,” offering Internet links to topical resources for victims, including OVC's Directory of Crime Victim Services.
- “Publications,” providing links to OVC publications that can be viewed online or downloaded. Users may also view digital clips for select video products and public service announcements.
- “Resources for International Victims,” offering information on global and international issues for victims, including a series of publications in French, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese.
- “Victim Assistance by Faith-Based Organizations,” detailing the history of OVC-funded programs, and offering information about government and nongovernmental resources, promising practices, training programs, and publications.
In the event of a terrorist attack or incident of mass violence, OVC will post critical information for victims on its Web site.
In 2005, OVC launched a companion Web site, crimevictims.gov, as part of an integrated campaign to increase awareness about victims' rights, educate the public about the impact of crime, and promote crime victim resources. The site was tied to the release of seven public service announcements (PSAs) that began to air nationally during National Crime Victims' Rights Week (April 1016, 2005). The PSAs target three audiencescrime victims, volunteers, and victim service providersand are available in Spanish. Crimevictims.gov targets these same audiences, with links to Web sites, publications, databases, and hotlines. The site mirrors the look and feel of the PSAs, giving a face to crime victims, volunteers, and service providers through photos and brief testimonials.
In addition to serving as the portal to its many resources and Web products, OVC's Web site also provides partner agencies with exposure for their services and resources. For more details, visit the OVC Web site.
Nationwide Automated Victim Information and Notification System
Computer automation provides a means for integrating federal investigative, prosecutorial, and corrections components with the victim notification requirements specified in the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance. Money allocated from the Crime Victims Fund has been used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop and implement a nationwide automated victim information and notification system (VNS) for the federal program. The system provides consistent information and reduces the time and resources necessary to notify victims of key case events.
As of September 30, 2006, a total of 1,135,808 victims had been provided with notification information by the victim notification system. In FYs 2005 and 2006, a total of 698,723 victims were added to VNS. During that same time period, the VNS automated call center received a total of 116,156 calls from victims and provided current information about each victim's case. VNS captures the number of notification events communicated to every victim for each defendant/inmate involved in his or her case. During FY 2005, the total number of these events was 6,508,699 and for FY 2006 the total was 8,404,602. VNS generated 1,224,757 letters during FY 2006 (the first year such figures were available).
In FYs 2005 and 2006, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys completed the following VNS projects:
- New notifications were added to the system to comply with the Crime Victims' Rights Act (2004).
- Internet access to VNS was added for victims (www.notify.usdoj.gov) (victim logins during FY 2006-the first full year of operation-were 134,653).
- Improved the e-mail notification services to victims (FY 2005, 36,953; FY 2006, 650,796).
- Streamlined the process for creating letter notifications for victims.
- The U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division was added to the system.
OVC Training and Technical Assistance Information Source
The OVC TTAC Information System (OTIS) is a comprehensive, Web-based information management system that provides OVC and other approved audiences with a single information source for training and technical assistance resources (TTA) and activities. OTIS was developed to support all OVC TTAC operations and functions, ensure effective management, facilitate proactive project planning, and identify areas that may need targeted services. The system contains data on TTA recipients, consultants, scholarship applications, and call center requests. It provides a timesaving, standardized way of collecting and tracking data to support daily project planning and management functions, and it enables staff to query any data area or module. It also supports an area on evaluation of TTA activities. The following are the data modules in OTIS:
- TTA Request Module-includes information on requesters and types of TTA requested.
- Consultant Module-contains profiles of OVC TTAC consultants including skills and area of expertise.
- Scholarship Module-tracks scholarship applications.
- Call Center Module-includes information on OVC TTAC inquiries.
- Evaluation Module-captures information on TTA needs assessment and evaluation.
Information Technology Support for the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program
Created under the Victims of Crime Act,* the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP) authorized OVC's director to reimburse victims for expenses associated with terrorism incidents that occur outside the United States. To be eligible for reimbursement under ITVERP, an individual must be a national of the United States or an officer or employee of the U.S. Government on the date the act of terrorism occurred (incidents must have occurred on or after December 21, 1988, and an investigation or prosecution must have been ongoing as of April 24, 1996). The individual must have suffered direct physical or emotional injury or death as a result of international terrorism. Find out more about ITVERP.
OVC collaborated with the Office of Justice Programs' Office of the Chief Information Officer on information technology support for ITVERP such as software development, implementation, and database maintenance, including the electronic filing and processing of victim expense reimbursement claims.
*Title II, 42 U.S.C. 10603c, 1404C.
OVC recognizes the vital importance of keeping the victim services field abreast of new programs and information. Through the Internet and other innovative technologies, OVC gives victims proven avenues for accessing resources and services. These enterprising technologies are designed to help victims get the information they need in a timely manner.
1. Victims of Crime Act (1984). VOCA crime victim assistance grants are administered by OVC; see Formula Grant Applications.
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