Crime Victim Services Victim Database

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Crime Victim Services
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

To help victims prevail over the trauma of their victimization by assisting & advocating for safety, healing, justice, & restitution

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The use of the Access database has been a crucial factor in working toward the achievement of our mission statement. It has enabled us to provide new services, by letting us use the personnel dollars and space available to employ, instead of secretaries, more direct services advocates, specifically for victims of sexual assault crimes and for one-on-one counseling. It has increased the quality of our services by making victim information immediately available. Finally, it has allowed us to increase the reach of our services by providing accurate and timely information to victims in a personalized letter format. The mission of Crime Victim Services (CVS) is to help victims prevail over the trauma of their victimization by assisting and advocating for safety, healing, justice and restitution. The agency, a United Way based victim support program, began in 1981 in Allen County, Ohio, as the first Victim Offender Mediation Program in Ohio. The agency expanded to include comprehensive victim services in 1985. In 1990, the Putnam County office opened and remains Ohio’s only county with all victim services at one facility. Crime Victim Services provides ten core services: 1) 24 hour rape crisis line and non-shelter domestic violence assistance; 2) victims’ rights and hearing notification; 3) court advocacy and victim impact statements; 4) assistance with compensation from Ohio criminal fines, emergency assistance, and restitution from the offender; 5) crisis counseling; 6) information and referral; 7) victim-offender mediation; 8) victim ministry; 9) victim impact panels; and 10) education for public, legislators, and justice officials. By the end of the year, CASA/GAL services (court ordered advocacy for abused and neglected children) will also be provided. One major use of technology within the agency structure is in providing court notification to the victim and Victim Impact Summaries to the Court. This involves the generation of letters for each court hearing and Victim Impact Summaries compiled from information received from the victim. CVS has an in-house computer network with work stations for all employees. Advocates have the capability to access Common Pleas and Juvenile Court records (via a hard-line hookup), Misdemeanor Court records (via the Internet), and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction information (via the Internet). In order to maintain a comprehensive file of victims assisted, in 1998 the decision was made to create a database utilizing Microsoft Access. The decision was based upon three primary factors. First, there was a desire to keep all existing victim files, while at the same time, filing space was becoming scarce. Files were being stored in more than one location, and access was difficult. It was felt that with a computerized database, case information would be more readily available: to CVS staff; to victims on the phone requesting information; and to prosecutors, probation officers and clerks of court, who quickly discovered that CVS information with regard to victims was generally more comprehensive and quickly available than their own. Second, CVS had grown so that more advocates were employed and in a few instances, cases were being opened and assisted by more than one individual. A case that involved both a juvenile offender and an adult offender would be referred to CVS by both courts. The case would be “opened” by both the juvenile advocate and the misdemeanor or felony advocate. When the duplication was discovered, the cases would be combined but the need existed to find a way to eliminate the problem. Third, it was becoming very difficult to supply funding agencies with required statistical reports. The funding agencies who supplied the grants to CVS require a quarterly report with a variety of statistics, e.g., number of victims served, demographics for those victims, and the services provided to those victims. The data varied from grant to grant and extracting that information from paper files was difficult. CVS contracted an independent consultant to set up the Access database at the approximate cost of $2,000.00. The database included data with regard to the victim(s), the case, and the offender(s). In addition, case notes could be maintained, hearing notification letters could be generated and elementary statistical reporting was possible. Over time it became clear that while the database was very useful, changes were necessary. Funding agencies altered requirements, which lead to added variables and more reports. New services were being provided which required some means of tracking them. There was the realization that data was there but not readily available, as no report had been created to display it. The office manager at CVS learned to change, adapt and alter the existing program to provide the needed information and has spent literally hundreds of hours doing so.

Other victim assistance programs became aware of the database being maintained by CVS and asked if they could use it. Four other programs in Ohio are utilizing copies and other agencies have expressed interest in setting up similar programs with CVS assistance. In addition, the Attorney General’s office of Ohio is now using an Access database created by CVS to monitor statewide outcome measurement information. Currently the Allen County database includes information for 18,946 cases beginning in 1981. (Cases predating the creation of the database were added from paper files). This represents 26,795 victims of crime in Allen County, Ohio! The database in Putnam County is smaller as it is a less populated county, with 3,624 cases and 6,988 distinct victims. Each case, and victim, has information concerning their case, including offender information with hearing dates and outcome of case; detailed case notes; and scanned PDF files of all correspondence and documentation. This is accomplished through use of the tab format with tabs for case, victims, offenders and notes. There are over 100 tables and nearly 90 forms in the database. Drop-down boxes are used whenever possible in order to make data “countable.” The Switchboard allows for selection of data through searches by Case Name, Case Number, Victim’s Last and/or First Name, and Offender’s Last and/or First Name. This puts the data at the touch of a few keystrokes should the victim, the Prosecutor’s office, court officials or other interested parties need information. Utilizing this Access database has greatly increased the effectiveness of our program. First, it makes all information concerning a case available to the advocates without having to deal with paper files. This has allowed us to dispose of six filing cabinets (most donated to another not-for-profit agency) and utilize that space as office space for an additional advocate. Second, it allows the advocates to create notification letters for the victims (usually 4-8 letters per case) by simply selecting a few options on the create documents screen. The program automatically enters the note into the case records area documenting the activity saving the advocate a large amount of time. This has helped in limiting the need for secretarial help, letting us use personnel money for direct service advocates. Third, it allows us to use the data in reports to our funding agencies. As mentioned earlier, funding agencies do not all require the same information and even one particular agency may change its requirements from year to year. Using the Access database allow us to quickly change or add variables that can then be tracked and tabulated in order to provide the funding agency with the information they require. Crime Victim Services, like many other not-for-profit agencies, has been greatly impacted by the economic crisis now in existence. This year alone CVS lost about $100,000 in county, city and grant cuts. This award would help us to continue providing quality victim advocacy to the residents of Allen and Putnam Counties, Ohio.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery