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Crime Victims' Rights Week is cause for reminder of services available

In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn is reminding the public of services his office provides for people affected by crime in our area.

The DA's Victim/Witness Bureau gives support to crime victims, witnesses and their families, helping them understand the legal and judicial systems, and answering questions about their cases.

The advocates help victims of violent crimes, vehicular crimes, sexual assault and other offenses, providing support as well as information. In Erie County, those advocates often meet the victims at the crime scene or in the hospital to begin providing help immediately. In some cases, they may help people relocate or get them some financial help.

The DA’s Victim/Witness Bureau assisted nearly 3,000 victims in 2017, and the BE-SAFE Domestic Violence Advocacy Program served more than 1,500 victims last year.

“The Victim/Witness Bureau is a grant funded program provided by the District Attorney’s Office to provide support for individuals who have suffered trauma or loss associated with being the victim of a crime,” said Flynn.

All of the victim services are free and confidential. For more information, call the Victim/Witness Bureau at 716-858-4640. For help for domestic violence victims, call 716-858-4630.

Crime victims also have certain rights, including:

• Help from victim service programs in your community. Getting a free copy of the police report.
• Being protected from threats or intimidation from the suspect or the suspect’s family.
• Being involved in certain stages of the criminal justice process, including being notified of a suspect's arrests, appearances in court and release on bail; the status of the case and its outcome.
• Having support from the DA’s Office or local police departments if you are having difficulty with your employer or creditor because of your cooperation in the prosecution in a criminal case.
• You have the right to make a statement at the time of the defendant’s sentencing if you are the victim of a felony.
• You have the right to request HIV testing for the convicted defendant if you are the victim of a felony sexual offense.
• You have the right to be notified of the defendant’s incarceration status. You can call the Division of Parole at 1-800-783-6059.
• You have the right to submit a written victim impact statement or make an oral presentation to the Parole Board when the decision on the inmate’s release is being considered.
• You should be contacted by the DA’s Office or probation before sentencing to discuss restitution that can help cover your out-of-pocket expenses.
• You should be provided with a separate, secure waiting area for court appearances, if possible.
• Your property held for evidence should be returned to you as soon as possible.

For more detailed information on your rights as a crime victim, contact the New York State Office of Victim Services at 1-800-247-8035 or visit www.ovs.ny.gov.

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