The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

May 14, 2013

County goes to bat for crime victims

Advocate is a liaison between police, prosecutor and victims

Since its inception in 1998, the Wyoming County Victim’s Advocate office, an adjunct of the prosecuting attorney’s office, has served thousands of crime victims.

Mona Perry serves as the current victim’s advocate.

The advocate office becomes involved whenever a person or business becomes a victim of crime, according to David G. Thompson, the county’s chief assistant prosecuting attorney and victim’s advocate program director.

Those crimes include property offenses such as burglary or larceny, minor personal offenses like assault or battery, along with more serious crimes such as murder, domestic violence, arson or sexually motivated wrongdoing, Thompson explained.

With the increased use of modern technologies such as computers and cell phones, more and more people are becoming victims of cyber-bullying, identity theft, fraud, stalking and other financially-motivated crimes, Thompson said.

Perry maintains a separate, but parallel, file to the police agency investigating the offenses which involve victims. She compiles information and maintains contact with the victim or family of the victim throughout the process and even after the case is concluded, Thompson noted.

In most cases, communication between the victim and the advocate are confidential, he emphasized.

“The role of the victim advocate is multi-functional as she provides a liaison between police, prosecutors and victims,” Thompson explained, “but also informs victims of private and public resources which are available to them.

“The resources could range from counseling with mental health providers, referral to a domestic violence shelter, to assisting with victims of crime with reparations — a state fund that is available to reimburse victims in some cases where out-of-pocket expenses may have been incurred for medical treatment.

“The victim advocate also facilitates the collection and distribution of restitution paid by offenders to victims,” Thompson said.

Thompson recalls “the bad old days,” before the arrival of victim advocate agencies, now common in many jurisdictions throughout the nation.

“Time was the prosecution would arrive in crowded court hallways and conference rooms and be required to interview the officer, witnesses and, with 25 to 30 cases to dispose of, it was a daunting task,” Thompson said.

“And, worse over, victims often felt embarrassed to be there or ignored, even fearful.

“Thanks to the innovation of victim advocacy, this has all changed for the better.

“Ms. Perry keeps victims informed of case progress, assists them with resources and will even go to court with them for moral support,” he added.

Both Thompson and Perry believe the victim advocate has provided great strides in improving victim’s access to justice.

Crime victims may contact Perry at 304-732-8000, extension 262.

— E-mail: mcbrooks@register-herald.com

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