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Friday, September 1, 2023

More help for crime victims

R.I. nets over $640K to assist crime victims

By Christopher Shea, Rhode Island Current

Rhode Island is getting more than $640,000 in federal funds in order to assist victims of violent crimes and survivors of sexual assault.

The latest round of funds was announced jointly by the state’s congressional delegation Saturday and represents a more than $400,000 increase from last year’s grant to the fund operated by the Rhode Island Treasurer’s Office.

“This essential funding for Treasury’s Crime Victim Compensation Program will help ensure that Rhode Islanders receive the care they need in moments of great need,” Treasurer James Diossa said in the delegation’s announcement. “No victim of crime should go without the resources and services they need for support.”

The Crime Victim Compensation Program, which began in 1972, provides up to $25,000 in reimbursement for expenses resulting from being the victim of a violent crime, such as costs associated with crime scene cleaning, counseling, relocation, and funerals.

In fiscal year 2023, $803,808 was given to 305 applicants — a significant decrease from the $908,843 paid to 383 applicants in FY21.

COVID had contributed to surges of applications in FY21, Moreno-Silva said. But the pandemic also decreased the number of in-person claims and referrals from school resource officers to the Treasurer’s office.

Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Lucy Rios said she was thankful for the federal support but would like to see more investments made.

Last year, her organization fielded 9,608 calls, nearly 4,000 fewer than in 2021.

“The need in our communities is still great,” Rios said in a statement Monday. “Investing in this program is important and we are pleased that our RI congressional delegation recognized this and continue to be partners in this work.”

Lawmakers, at the request of the Treasurer’s Office, proposed additional funding sources through a $2 surcharge to the cost of a traffic ticket this past legislative session

The bill, sponsored by South Kingstown Democrats Rep. Carol McEntee and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski on behalf of the Treasurer’s Office, also sought to allow a medical forensic examination report to stand in the place of a police report for victims of sexual assault.

Neither the House or Senate bills made it through committee.

Under state law, victims must report the crime to law enforcement authorities within 15 days to be eligible for compensation from the victim fund. But Peg Langhammer, executive director of the Providence-based nonprofit advocacy group Day One, previously said around 70% of sexual assaults go unreported.

Treasurer’s Office spokesperson Michelle Moreno-Silva said in an email Monday the Treasury cannot independently make changes to its regulations.

“That must be done by legislation,” she said, adding “Treasurer Diossa fully intends to push for the bill next session and is reviewing possible changes that he may recommend.”



Rhode Island Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Rhode Island Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Janine L. Weisman for questions: Follow Rhode Island Current on Facebook and Twitter.