Crime Victim Aid Getting Big Boost in Spending Law

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Programs that serve the nation’s crime victims will benefit greatly from the bill approved by Congress on Friday to fund the federal government through September. The Senate voted 65-32 for the $1.3 trillion spending package on Friday morning. President Trump signed the measure on Friday after threatening to veto it because it does not include enough funding for his long-promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico or protections for young immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The legislation allows for $3,285 billion in victim assistance grants, a 78 percent increase over last year, estimates Steve Derene of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators (NAVAA), who monitors spending under the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

The money comes from a fund made up of fines and forfeitures paid to federal courts. This includes large fines that are periodically imposed on corporations in major white-collar crime cases.

Congress for many years capped expenditures for crime victims at under $750 million. However, this is the fourth consecutive year that the spending allowed by Congress has exceeded $2 billion.

The funds are used for many different purposes, including supplementing state aid to reimburse victims of violent crime and paying for direct victim assistance services such as counseling, emergency shelter and rape crisis centers, NAVAA says.

In another federal budget development, it turns out that the $75 million that Congress is providing to the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, as reported Thursday by The Crime Report, will not be going to academic research on school violence.

A provision of the spending bill says that although funds in the initiative have gone to the National Institute of Justice for four years to support research, the money this year will be spent in a new school safety bill called the STOP School Violence Act that is being enacted by Congress in the same appropriations bill.

The measure says that the funds can be used for a number of purposes, including training school employees and students “to prevent student violence,” the operation of anonymous reporting systems for threats against schools and students, and “school threat assessment and intervention teams.”

Our story on Thursday should not have stated that continued funding of the initiative would include a large amount of academic research.

The Trump administration has said that the first several years of research under the bill, which was first passed after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, has not yet produced many results.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report.

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