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NYS Crime Victims Board: Victims Advocate or Enemy?

Posted Dec 20 2009 12:00am

Below is another post by Kate B. in Albany, NY. This is another woman is NYS dealing with the NYS Crime Victims Board, a program that claims to be "the last resort". I can assure you, it is not the last resort, hardly a place to resort to at all. As I read on about this victim's struggles with NYS CVB, the patterns seem all too familiar. The desperation for help is palpable. The frustration in this letter to Tina Stanford, Chair of CVB, is more than obvious. And the way NYS CVB deals with victims of crime is offensive to me and alarms me as a victim of crime trying to help myself and others get help they need. From my own experience, and the many other situations I have witnessed with CVB, this program needs a change. The change needs to start at the top. The patterns I recognize with this state program are: Carelessness, lack of response, lack of follow-up, lack of organization of data, inability to understand specific crimes like domestic violence and stalking, inability to handle claims in a timely manner, and giving victims false hope.

Before I leave you to read the letter below, I am proud to say that I am a voice for victims of crime being taken by this state program. Now, if you Google NYS Crime Victims Board, my website appears on the same search page--lucky for CVB. I am hoping to bring more attention to this program, and the way their Board Members handle claims, unfairly and with no regard to the victim, taking away victims rights to compensation for crimes they didn't commit. In the end, victims are re-victimized by this program claiming to be the "last resort", and are minimally assisted, if at all.

Below is another letter to Tina Stanford from Kate B. (stalking victim in Albany, NY)

Ms. Stanford:

Please read the last email I sent carefully, it sums up important issues regarding my claim. You were frank recently when you said that you are not an expert on security devices. ALL of my advice came from experts, and I followed it, cautiously, thoughtfully, and never recklessly. I am really surprised by the way in which your agency never answered my questions, rarely returned calls, did not respond to letters, and then three years later -- much too late -- says for the very first time that there are "limits". This is very poor treatment of crime victims, abhorrent. But the statute does not talk about limits. It says security devices, which come in many forms, and are known to experts. That is covered in my earlier e-mail. But this time I want to be sure you know that for more than 900 days I dealt with terrible treatment from your agency, with the exception of the meeting in July, and the responsiveness last week.

For three years, I was jerked around and treated badly. As an attorney and former ADA and daughter of a career prosecutor, I found the role of crime victim to be very difficult to accept when the stalking began. I was an unlikely target, and it was not being done by people I know. It made no sense. But the roughest part was dealing with your agency. I knew I was an innocent victim of crime and there were many witnesses to the stalking, because I heard from the witnesses and gave their names to police. I also knew that police were not investigating and had not talked to witnesses. I then had proof that the investigator on the case lied and closed the case without talking to the witnesses. When I told your agency about problems in the investigation, no one listened to me. When I told your agency that a sergeant could provide info from the witnesses, I was ignored. When I said you can talk to the witnesses, no one called.

Your agency did not care.

I was strung along for years, all the while dealing with criminals, and expert advice about security.
Because there were more stalking crimes and the sergeant who had spoken to witnesses was the officer who responded to those incidents, I was able to file another claim, and this time I had the officer saying the crimes were substantiated. (I was damn lucky he responded.) But your agency was hell bent on denying the claim anyway, even after the claims unit spoke to the sergeant. I told the sergeant about my earlier problems with your agency, so he offered to do anything to help, signing a letter and an affidavit that I gave to your agency. A month later, he came to my house to make sure I knew all the details about your agency's interference, calling the chief, that made the chief take him off the case.

The culture in your agency is to treat crime victims as foes, as adversaries and as idiots. It is easy for me to prove, if you need more details. But what is most shocking and harmful is the poor communication. I hate phones and rarely use them, but my calls to your agency were rarely returned. I wrote, and my letters were ignored -- even after I was asked to write. I supplied police information that was ignored for months or years, and then I was thanked for it when I provided it again, as though it was seen for the first time. I won't forget the hundreds of bad nights being strung along. It was cruel and unnecessary. So, in the earlier e-mail I explained how I purchased security devices recommended by experts. In this e-mail I am explaining that these years of dealing with your agency have been very long and painful. And if there had been even basic good communication at the start, someone would have responded and said something about "limits" on security devices. NO ONE did that, it is not in your application form, and it's not in the statute. I look forward to resolving the past application and all the receipts you have ASAP, with full compensation, and talking about any concerns you have about the expert advice for purchases that were delayed and now planned for 2010.

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