Opinion

Assemblyman Tom Alfano announced that the Assembly passed a legislative package aimed at improving treatment and services for crime victims. The package, which Assemblyman Alfano strongly supported and sponsored in part, was overwhelmingly passed in the Assembly.

The 10 legislative measures were considered in conjunction with a national public awareness week for remembrance, reflection and re-commitment for crime victims, taking place April 26-May 2.

"This package of bills helps victims of violence try to piece their lives back together," Assemblyman Alfano said. "It deals with treatment, protections and helps provide safeguards. For too long, victims of violence had no recourse, no alternatives and nowhere to turn. This helps change that. I want to thank the Speaker and all my colleagues for making this bill package a reality."

Alfano noted that the provisions of the package focus on improving knowledge, training and resources of New York State's Crime Victims Board (CVB), law enforcement and court officials who deal with crime victims.

These measures would create a victims' assistance program where CVB members and staff would be required to take a course to become fully knowledgeable and trained in crime victim assistance; permit courts to direct anti-trust fines to be paid to the CVB; and require separate training and instruction regarding sexual assault for all police officers involved with these types of crimes.

This bill would also require the Office of Court Administration to provide training to judges and justices at the New York State Judicial Institute with respect to sexual assault crimes and expand eligibility and compensation from the CVB to include domestic partners.

One bill aimed at reducing financial hardships for crime victims makes crime victims eligible for reimbursement for transportation costs for necessary appearances, while another highlights the difficulty victims of sexual assault face in overcoming barriers to self-sufficiency. Assemblyman Alfano is sponsoring a bill to allow these victims to receive information about locally available services for sexual assault victims and to protect such victims from further harm.

"This bill is all about getting the victim the information, access and tools to put them back on their feet again," Alfano said.

Another bill improves the care provided to victims through improved sexual assault training, the measure would require standards for proactive training for child protective workers regarding sexual abuse and for police officers regarding sexual assault. This bill would build on previously enacted landmark legislation, the Sex Offenders Registration Act (Megan's Law).

"Again, the bottom line is that with training and assistance we can help children and adults in a very difficult time. We all know violence and hatred impact children in very different ways. This bill helps give the professionals the tools to help them."

Alfano also pointed to legislation to reduce administrative red tape by changing the reporting requirements relative to restitution and fair-treatment standards from annual to every two years, and which establishes a civil remedy for victims of hate crimes related violence or intimidation. Finally, the legislation that establishes a crime victim's ombudsman and provides for such functions, powers and duties to establish an advocate for crime victims in State government was passed.

"The focus of this package of bills is clearly aimed to help victims and those impacted by crime. It's my hope that we get this through the Senate and on the governor's desk immediately for his signature," Alfano concluded.


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