Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Protecting Crime Victims for the Long Haul

Earlier this year, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 898, a bill that will help California continue to provide necessary funds to victims of violent crime and help them with the high costs associated with those crimes. This new legislation increases minimum fines placed on offenders for felonies and misdemeanors for the first time in nearly 20 years. The last time minimum fines were increased to protect crime victims who had suffered out-of-pocket expenses was 17 years ago, in 1994. At that time, gasoline was just over $1.00 per gallon, and a gallon of milk was $2.88. Today, those prices have more than tripled and doubled. You can imagine how the cost of medical treatment has risen since then. The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) relies heavily on these fines to take care of the needs of California’s crime victims. This is why an increase, along with imposing and collecting restitution, is more important than ever. Restitution does more than impose a fine; it holds the offender accountable and helps with the healing process for the victim. Increasing fines to be sure the program can meet the needs of victims for years to come is paying respect to the victims and their families who often endure a lifetime of struggle.

CalVCP covers horrific crimes such as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual and physical assault, homicide, robbery, drunk driving, and vehicular manslaughter. In Fiscal Year 2010/11, the program paid out nearly $96 million to victims. This year, we anticipate the costs to be even higher. We help the victims through those fines paid by criminal offenders, not tax-payer dollars.

As we know, the California Victim Compensation Program is the last hope for many crime victims. With offenders paying more, we can be there to help.