Monday, May 17, 1999

Crime victims may get money faster

Atty. general wants control of program

The Associated Press and Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — The Senate will consider a plan this week that proponents said could help some crime victims get compensated faster and easier.

        Attorney General Betty Montgomery has proposed taking control of the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Program, which provides money to victims of violent crime. The money can be used for expenses related to the crime, such as medical costs, lost wages and funeral expenses.

        Hamilton County's top law enforcement official said Sunday that he supports the proposed change.

        “I'm for anything that will speed assistance to victims of crime,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said. “Attorney General Montgomery's office has a real propensity for aiding crime victims. It sould like a good idea.' Currently, the program and its $31 million victims' reparation fund are administered by Ms. Montgomery's office and the Ohio Court of Claims.

        Victims apply to the attorney general's office, which makes recommendations to the Ohio Court of Claims, which ultimately authorizes payments.

        “In many ways this is a duplicative process,” said Ms. Montgomery's spokesman Chris Davey. “The general idea is that by having the attorney general's office investigate and decide the award, we'll be able to streamline the process.”

        The average claim takes 350 days to process, not including appeals. The plan would reduce that to 120 days by statute, Mr. Davey said.

        Miles Durfey, Court of Claims clerk, is not taking a position on the proposal, said Mary Webster, director of the court's public affairs office.

        The Court of Claims falls under the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. Justice Thomas Moyer supports the proposal. “I'm interested in changing the system if we can make a substantial improvement,” he said.

        Nancy Neylon, director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, approves of any plan that can shorten the time it takes victims to get money.

        She's concerned about losing educational opportunities that the program offers to victim advocates working in prosecutors' offices.

        In the fiscal year beginning in July, the Court of Claims projects it will pay $10.5 million in victim awards, compared with $10.3 million in administrative costs. Costs include money to pay workers in shelters, crisis centers and prosecutors' offices.


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