Do you know that as a Sheriff in Virginia you have played, or will play, a critical role in the personal safety plan of tens of thousands of Virginians?
Imagine you are a domestic violence victim in your community. Your offender is arrested and taken to jail, but in spite of the arrest you don’t feel safe. When will he or she get released? How will you know about the release? Will your safety be jeopardized?
Victim Information and Notification Everyday known as the Virginia VINE program allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal offenders 24 hours a day: over the telephone, through the Internet, or via email. Virginia VINE allows victims to build this information into their personal safety plan. Victims and other concerned citizens can call to inquire about the current status of an inmate and can register to be notified immediately upon a change in the inmate’s status such as transfer, release or escape. It is an invaluable resource that is available to crime victims, their families and concerned citizens. In the month of June 2011 alone there were nearly 82,000 internet searches for information on offenders through the internet component of VINE known as VINELINK. Nearly 25,000 phone calls, TTY and email notifications were made on the change of offender status. As you can see, victims and their families and friends are relying on this information.
At the time of the offender’s arrest, the arresting officer gives information about registering with VINE. You to call the Virginia VINE 800 number to register to be notified of the offender’s status. This information gives you a sense of safety and empowerment because now you will not be caught off guard when the offender is released. This service gives you the ability to access information for the offender custody status 24 hours a day.
In 2006, VSA received a grant from Bureau of Justice Assistance to implement the Virginia VINE program in the local and regional jails and partnered with the Virginia Center for Policing Innovation (VCPI) to implement VINE. Implementation is nearing completion with 97% of the local and regional jails fully up and running. While we continue to push toward 100% implementation, the real work begins now. In order for VINE to be fruitful to the Commonwealth we must create awareness of the program. Awareness begins with you and your agency. Are all the members of your organization aware of VINE and its importance to a victim’s personal safety plan? VCPI offers free VINE Awareness training to ensure that your agency fully understands the program, the role each member of the agency plays in the program, and how they can help create understanding and awareness in their communities.
To thoroughly integrate VINE in your community, VSA asks that you appoint a VINE coordinator to serve as the contact person and represent VINE in your agency. The VINE coordinator would ideally serve as the “resident expert” for any questions, work directly with VCPI and Appriss on program updates and maintenance, and would keep agency personnel informed and up-to-date on VINE. This coordinator would work very closely with the VCPI VINE Coordinator Pat Conwell to help resolve any issues that would prevent this service from being as effective as possible to our victims.
To schedule VINE Awareness training for your organization and to discuss the role of your VINE coordinator, please contact Pat Conwell, VCPI’s VINE Coordinator at 804-644-0899 or at [email protected].
I would like to thank those agencies who have worked tirelessly to implement the VINE program and encourage those who have not yet completed implementation to move forward with the process. VSA and VCPI are committed to successful implementation of the VINE program in the Commonwealth and ensuring that every citizen is aware of the value it brings to a victim’s personal safety plan. I encourage you to join us in that commitment!