Help from victim/witness services bureau & BE-SAFE domestic violence advocacy remains available despite closures due to COVID-19 pandemic
By the Erie County District Attorney’s Office
In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 19-25), Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced his office will continue to be a resource for victims of all crimes despite closures due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) aims to raise awareness about issues that affect all victims and to remind the public about resources available to those who have been impacted by crime. NCVRW allows crime victims to share their experiences with others, connect with services, and receive the necessary support as they move through the criminal justice process. Since 1981, the annual, weeklong campaign has been sponsored by the National Center for Victims of Crime, Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office would like to remind residents about services available to crime victims through the office’s victim/witness services bureau. It is comprised of specially trained victim advocates who provide support for all victims from low-level offenses to those who have been affected by more serious crimes such as domestic violence and homicides. Staff also assist victims of violent felony offenses, vehicular crimes, sexual assaults and child victims.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office is a leading provider of support for crime victims, witnesses and their families. The victim/witness services bureau provides support for those who have suffered trauma or loss associated with being the victim of a crime. Advocates help victims navigate the legal system by explaining what will happen at each step of the prosecution. All services are free and include court accompaniment, referrals and linkage to outside resources, safety planning, supportive counseling, and potential compensation for expenses related to a crime.
“In addition to prosecuting offenders, my office will continue to provide support to those affected by any crime committed in Erie County,” District Attorney John J. Flynn said. “I encourage anyone who has been a victim to contact my office to see what services may be available.”
Comprised of nine employees, the victim/witness services bureau assisted nearly 3,000 victims of crime in 2019, including the families of 69 homicide victims. Last year, nearly 27,000 total units of service were provided to clients.
There are six BE-SAFE domestic violence advocates working within the Erie County District Attorney’s Office who provide support for victims of domestic violence. While the program specializes in advocacy within the criminal courts, one does not need to have a pending criminal case to access services.
In 2019, BE-SAFE advocates provided 23,470 total units of service to clients. Services include supportive counseling, safety planning, referrals, hotline assistance, crisis intervention, transportation, translations, and applications for compensation through the New York State Office of Victim Services. Of those served last year, nearly 1,900 individuals were new to the program. BE-SAFE has an average of 120 new clients per month.
BE SAFE domestic violence advocates and the victim/witness services bureau’s crime victim advocates are providing remote advocacy through phone outreach on any incoming case. While calls cannot be answered directly at this time, the office lines are being monitored.
For more information on the BE-SAFE domestic violence advocacy program and other local programs, call 716-858-4630 or visit www.erie.gov/besafe.
For more information district attorney’s victim/witness services bureau, call 716-858-4640 or visit https://www2.erie.gov/da/index.php?q=victimwitness-bureau.