Grants Assist Crime Victims
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The Calvert County Crisis Intervention Center has received a portion of a greater statewide grant that assists victims of violent crime.

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention announced recently it is awarding about $7.6 million in federal grants to help provide services for victims of violent crime. The funds come to the state from the U.S. Department of Justice, through the Victims of Crime Act, a governor’s office press release states.

This funding supports programs that improve the treatment of victims by providing them with such services as crisis intervention, counseling, temporary housing, emergency transportation to court, and criminal justice support and advocacy, according to the release.

The Calvert County Crisis Intervention Center received $95,419 as part of the VOCA grant, which is used as part of its operational budget for salaries for a domestic violence therapist and for 20 hours a week for a hotline crisis counselor, said David Gale, director of the Crisis Intervention Center, which is part of the Calvert County Health Department.

“We have always received these funds,” Gale said, adding that services rely on the grant, although they have not seen an increase in the grant for 12 years. The important part is that a 20 percent match is needed for the grant and the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners agreed to provide it, he said.

Traditionally the grant was handled through the Maryland Department of Human Resources, but last year the responsibility was transferred to the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Gale said.

Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura Martin said that while her office did not receive any funds through the VOCA grant initiative, the office received a $5,000 grant this year from the Byrne Memorial Assistant Grant through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. The grant, which the office receives annually, is used to buy equipment that helps with prosecutions, she said, and this year the office purchased computer programs to digitally show photos to juries. Grant funds have also been used to buy a digital camera that is used to photograph a victim’s injuries for the Domestic Violence Unit, she said.

A board member of Maryland State Board of Victim Services, Martin said of the grants that assist victims, “I think it’s wonderful and necessary.” The funding allows both the victim and his or her family to receive help and support, she said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in the release, “The most important responsibilities we have in government are to create jobs and to protect the public’s safety. In living up to our commitment to public safety, we are committed to assisting all crime victims in the state. The O’Malley-Brown Administration will ensure that all victims in Maryland are treated with dignity and respect; that their rights are upheld; and that funds are available to provide assistance and support.”

Three statewide grants for victim advocacy services were also part of the larger grant. The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, a nonprofit, received $385,200; the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Victim Coordination Project, a Division of Parole and Probation received $155,810; and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ program Bridging the Gap: Victim Services in Compensation received $44,921, according to the release.

“Victims of violent crime need to know that they do not have to suffer alone,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, (D-Md.) chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which funds the Department of Justice. “People often need a helping hand to recover and rebuild their lives after suffering a crime or attack. I was proud to put these recovery funds in the federal checkbook to help victims in Maryland create a way forward.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in the release, “Victims of domestic violence must know they can seek help and communities must stand ready to offer their support. This funding will help communities across Maryland provide victims of violent crime with the resources and support they need to get back on their feet with dignity and strength.”

According to the release, organizations receiving VOCA grants are either public entities or nonprofits that provide direct services to crime victims. They include sexual assault and rape treatment centers, domestic violence programs and shelters, child abuse programs, mental health services, programs for underserved victims, community-based victim coalitions and criminal justice agencies that have components that offer services to crime victims. Hospitals and emergency medical facilities that offer crisis counseling, forensic examinations and other victim services are also eligible for VOCA grants. Criminal justice agencies that receive VOCA grants use the funds for victims’ services that include victim crisis units, victim advocates, victim registration and notification and victim-witness programs.