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Response to Charles Lane's Editorial on the VOCA Fund

Charles Lane’s opinion piece, Congress finds a slush fund in money marked for crime victims is misinformed and disingenuous.  He appears to be arguing that because crime rates seem to be declining, the Crime Victims Fund should not be used only for crime victim service programs. 

It’s important to emphasize that the Crime Victims Fund comes entirely from fines and other monetary penalties paid by those convicted of violating Federal criminal laws; none of the money in the Fund comes from taxpayers. 

Mr. Lane suggests that there is some relationship between crime rate statistics and the need for crime victim services when, in fact, there is virtually no link. The impact on individual victims and their families and their need for assistance cannot be easily measured by whether crime rates happen to be going up or down.  Parents whose children were murdered, adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and battered women and their children seeking safe shelter are not statistics who evaporate with the next year’s crime report.  Their needs are personal, pervasive and long lasting regardless of what this year’s Uniform Crime Reports say. 

Before 2000, the amounts deposited into the Crime Victims Fund were, as required by the law, distributed for victim services.  In 2000, however, Congress began limiting the amount distributed each year in order, “to ensure that a stable source of funds will remain available for the program.”  Despite that intent, as the amounts in the Fund began to grow, the amounts made available were not enough to even keep pace with inflation let alone meet the ongoing needs of crime victims.  The amount distributed in 2014 was 12 percent less in real dollars than the amount distributed in 2000.

Congress finally recognized the need to better support crime victims last year by significantly raising the amount distributed from the Fund. This increase is enabling victim service programs to not only catch up, but to reach out to additional populations of crime victims, such as urban youth, victims with disabilities, human trafficking victims, and many more as well as make critically needed investments in technology and physical infrastructure. 

Now is not the time to retrench.


Steve Derene is the Executive Director of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators

Mai Fernandez is the Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime