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FHP to Launch Victim Advocate Program

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Contact:
Major Ken Howes or
Florida Highway Patrol

For Immediate Release

Tallahassee - Colonel Charles C. Hall, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol, is pleased to announce that the Office of Attorney General Bob Butterworth has awarded the FHP a $243,651 federal grant to assist in implementing a pilot "Victim Advocate" program in south and central Florida. The federal funding was received in conjunction with the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), enacted in 1984, to provide federal funding to assist state, local and private nonprofit victim advocate and victim/witness agencies to provide direct assistance to victims of crime. The assistance is intended to be provided as soon as possible after the crime occurs in order to reduce the severity of the psychological consequences of the victimization, to improve the victim’s willingness to cooperate with the criminal justice process, and to restore the victim’s faith in the criminal justice system. The grant will run through September 30, 2001.

The FHP will immediately begin the process of establishing victim advocate offices in Troops L and D. The Troop L office will be responsible for providing services to crime victims in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties. The Troop D office will provide these same services in Orange, Lake, Osceola, Volusia, Seminole, and Brevard counties. A victim advocate as well as a clerical assistant will staff each office.

In its role as Florida’s largest traffic law enforcement agency, the FHP encounters victims of a wide variety of crimes. By far the most common are the survivors of the victims of fatal traffic crashes. In 1998, FHP Troop D investigated 257 multi-vehicle fatal crashes and Troop L investigated 268. In addition, Troop D investigated 84 single-vehicle/pedestrian fatal crashes in 1998 and Troop L investigated 85. Each of these crashes is initially investigated as a criminal act and may result in charges such as vehicular homicide or DUI manslaughter. Therefore, the primary recipients of services under this program will be the families of the victims of fatal traffic crashes and DUI crashes, and to injured victims of traffic crashes involving some type of criminal activity such as fleeing from a law enforcement officer, assault, or DUI. "Victim" is defined as an innocent party who is impacted either directly through injury or indirectly by the death or disability of a family member.

During the course of patrol, FHP troopers also encounter many other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, assault, robbery, automobile theft, and highway violence (rock throwing, shooting at vehicles, etc.). During 1999, Uniform Crime Reports indicate that there were 406 victims of crimes reported by Troop D and 1,312 victims of crimes reported by Troop L. When criminal investigations are conducted by the FHP in these types of crimes, the victim advocate’s services will be made available to those victims.

The victim advocate will respond to the scene of fatal crashes and DUI crashes with an innocent victim on a call from the trooper investigating the crash. The advocate will provide immediate services, including assistance with the notification of next-of-kin. If the investigating trooper makes a determination that no crime has been committed, the victim will be referred to an appropriate social service agency. Follow-up contacts will keep the victim apprised of the progress of the case and assess the need for additional services. The victim advocate’s office will serve as the point of contact in FHP when the victim needs information about the case. Additionally, the advocate will assist the victim with court appearances and arrange for the provision of any necessary counseling or other social services.

In addition, The FHP victim advocates will work closely with other victim advocacy programs and social service agencies. In particular, services will be coordinated with the victim advocates in the state attorneys’ offices. Other groups will be called on to provide services as appropriate. MADD is expected to be a major resource along with local referral services, clergy, shelters, and specific service agencies.

"We are extremely grateful to General Butterworth for providing this much-needed assistance," said Colonel Hall. "The two victim advocate offices funded by this grant are intended to provide a model for establishing similar offices in the other eight FHP troops in the future," Hall added.

 


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