Turn To Tara: Sharp decline in NY crime victims filing for state aid
New data obtained by Turn To Tara shows a sharp reduction in the number of crime victims across New York state utilizing a little-known financial safety net.
Crime victims in New York can turn to the Office of Victim Services for some financial help. Every year, it hands out an average of $20 million across the state to help victims struggling to pay with associated medical bills, lost wages and even funeral costs. It comes at no expense to taxpayers as all reimbursements are funded through fines and fees paid by the offenders.
News 12’s Tara Rosenblum recently put in a public records request to find out how much of that money is making its way to Westchester County. A close review of three years of data shows a sharp reduction in the number of people asking for help.
In 2017, 277 victims in Westchester filed claims, but 101 - a little more than a third - were paid out. Another 68 people were deemed eligible for assistance, but have not submitted expenses or been reimbursed yet. It’s a big drop from 2015 when 464 claims were made, with a total of 155 victims compensated.
“Are there less crime victims in Westchester or just less money being paid out?” asks Janine Kava, director of public information for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, “I don’t think it’s easy to make that correlation.”
Kava says what’s important is that New York state began keeping records in 1975. In 2017, she says New York had the lowest crime since the records have been kept.
The top five crimes that victims in Westchester sought reimbursement for last year:
Kava says there are many things that go into deciding who is eligible. She says first and foremost, it’s need-based.
“If an individual has no other means, we are there to help,” she says.
Kava says it also depends on the crime and what type of needs they have.