April 23, 2009

NATIONAL CRIME VICTIMS WEEK 2009

Guest opinion submitted by Senator Mike Crapo

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services estimated that over 790,000 children in the United States had been maltreated, that is, subject to neglect, physical or sexual abuse, psychological abuse and medical neglect. That is a rate of just over 10 children for every 1,000. Of these, nearly 32 percent were under the age of four, and approximately 75 percent had no prior history of maltreatment.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, close to 233,000 women and close to 28,000 men aged 12 and older were victims of rape and/or sexual assault in the United States.

In 2006, approximately 6.1 million attempted and/or completed crimes of violence occurred, including rape and sexual assault, robbery and aggravated and simple assault.

While the incidence of females killed by intimate partners declined between 1975 and 2005, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in recent years, about one-third of female murder victims were killed by an intimate partner, compared to three percent of male murder victims and, of all female murder victims, the proportion killed by an intimate partner has been increasing.


In 2006, the Department of Justice calculated that the total economic loss resulting from personal and property crimes totaled over $18.4 billion.


April 26 through May 2 is National Crime Victims Week, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), historic legislation that established the Office of Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice and created the Crime Victims Fund, a dedicated, mandatory fund into which fines and forfeitures in federal court are deposited and then granted out to provide victims' services and direct compensation to victims of crime nationwide. In Idaho in 2008, $1.6 million was allocated to victims' assistance projects and programs from the Crime Victims Fund, and approximately 450 Idahoans who were victims of crime received direct compensation that included money from the Fund as well. In the beginning of Fiscal Year 2009, the Fund had over $2 billion. However, for the past nine years, Congress has substantially restricted the amount of money allowed for these critical grants. In 2009, in fact, Congress only allowed $635 million of this non-taxpayer fund to be used for its stated purpose. I am working to change that through the Budget Resolution where I've included a technical point of order that would stop Congress from redirecting the remaining balance to other purposes, as it has for almost a decade.


Hundreds of thousands of victims of crime went without assistance or services last year. Many Idaho shelters saw service-ending and door-closing cuts to critical federal dollars. This is intolerable, when there are non-taxpayer dollars from perpetrators of crimes mandated, by law, to be used for this purpose-two-thirds more than Congress is currently releasing. It's time for Congress to abide by the law that it passed in 1984. It's time for the Members in Congress today who were original co-sponsors of that law in 1984 to abide by the very law they argued for 25 years ago.


During Crime Victims Week, find ways to help locally-volunteer or make a donation to a local shelter or victims' advocate organization, thank the victims' advocates in your community, and thank law enforcement for their dangerous and vital work. Together, we can help ease the financial, emotional and psychological burden that victims of crime in our communities, state and nation bear.

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