Erie County District Attorney's Office Observes National Crime Victims' Rights Week

Modified: April 21, 2021 4:17pm

4/21/2021

In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 18-24, 2021), District Attorney John J. Flynn reminds residents of Erie County that his office continues to be a resource for victims of all crimes. For this year’s commemoration, District Attorney Flynn is encouraging victims impacted by gun violence to inquire about services that may be available through his office’s Victim/Witness Bureau.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) aims to raise awareness about issues that affect victims and to remind the public about resources available to those who have been impacted by crime. NCVRW allows crime victims to share their experiences, connect with services, and receive necessary support as they move through the criminal justice process. Since 1981, the annual campaign has been sponsored by the National Center for Victims of Crime, Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“While my office will continue to be a resource for victims of all crimes, I want to encourage those who have been impacted by gun violence to contact us for support. There has been disturbing increase in the number of shootings in the City of Buffalo. I understand that the victims of these violent crimes are hesitant to confide in law enforcement out of fear of possible retaliation. I want the survivors of gun violence to know that my office has services available to help you and protect you. I encourage anyone who has been a victim of any crime to come forward with information that may help solve their case,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

Between January through March 2021, there have been a total of 63 shooting incidents in the City of Buffalo where one or more people were either injured or killed by gunfire, which is a 96.9% increase compared to the number of incidents reported over the same period last year (32 incidents reported between January – March 2020). There has been a total of 72 people either injured or killed by gunfire compared to 36 people injured/killed between January-March 2020, resulting in 100% increase), according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ firearm-related crime activity report from April 8, 2021. According to the report, 16 people have died from gun violence in Buffalo this year (10 people were killed by gunfire between January - March 2020, resulting in 60% increase).

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office is a leading provider of support for crime victims, witnesses, and their families. The office’s Victim/Witness Services Bureau is comprised of specially trained advocates who provide support for all victims from low-level offenses to those who have been affected by more serious crimes such as homicide, domestic violence and sexual assault. Our advocates are also trained to work with child victims who have additional rights under the law.

The Victim/Witness Services Bureau provides support for those who have suffered trauma or loss associated with being the victim of a crime. In addition to informing about their rights, our advocates work directly with the crime victims by helping them understand the judicial process and accompany victims to all court proceedings. Advocates provide supportive counseling, safety planning, and referrals to outside agencies and resources.

The Victim/Witness Services Bureau is comprised of nine full-time employees, which is funded through a grant from the New York State Office of Victim Services. In 2020, the bureau assisted a total of 3,240 victims of crime, including the families of 119 homicide victims. To date, the bureau has assisted the families of 93 homicide victims this year (total number includes families of homicide victims who died in 2021 and years prior). In 2020, approximately 28,000 total units of service were provided to clients.

Crime victims have a right to be protected from threats, physical injury and other forms of intimidation. In addition to offering advice on how to protect yourself, prosecutors can request an order of protection through the Court. In certain cases, witnesses and victims can obtain assistance to relocate for their safety. Witness intimidation is a crime and our office can prosecute the offender(s) if you are threatened or harassed.

Our advocates can also assist victims in filing a claim with the New York State Office of Victim Services, which may provide financial support for the costs associated with crime such as the replacement or repairs of essential personal property, loss of earnings or support, medical bills, counseling, crime scene clean-up or funeral bills.

Our office also has advocates who specialize in helping victims of domestic violence. There are six BE-SAFE Domestic Violence Advocates working within the Erie County District Attorney’s Office. While the program primiarily works with victims who are navigating the criminal justice process, you do not need to have a pending case against the offender to access services.

In 2020, BE-SAFE advocates provided 12,178 total units of service to clients. Those services include supportive counseling, safety planning, referrals, hotline assistance, crisis intervention, transportation, translations, and applications for compensation through the NYS Office of Victim Services. Of those served last year, 1,326 individuals were new to the program. BE-SAFE advocates made a total of 4,305 contacts with clients (total number includes repeat contacts with the same client).

During the pandemic, BE-SAFE Domestic Violence Advocates and the Victim/Witness Services Bureau’s Crime Victim Advocates provided remote advocacy through phone outreach on any incoming case.

For more information on the Erie County District Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Services Bureau, call 716-858-4640 or visit www.erie.gov/da.

For more information on the BE-SAFE Domestic Violence Advocacy Program and other local programs, call 716-858-4630 or visit www.erie.gov/besafe.

To learn more about crime victim rights, visit the New York State Office of Victims Services website: https://ovs.ny.gov/

Clients Served by the Erie County DA’s Office in 2020

Total Number of Clients Served

3,240

Clients Served by V/W Services Bureau

1,914

Clients Served by BE-SAFE

1,326


Victim/Witness Services Bureau Client Data for 2020 (excludes DV clients)

Total Number of Clients Served

1,914

Total Number of Client Contacts (includes repeat contacts with same individual)

6,719

Total Units of Service Provided

15,295

Provided Info on Criminal Justice Process

2,846

Provided Info on Victim Rights

1,588

Criminal Court Advocacy/Accompaniment (phone & in-person)

2,253

Provided Notification on Criminal Justice Events

1,914

Assisted with Submission of Victim Impact Statements

193

Individual Supportive Counseling

1,897

Advocacy and Assistance with Other Programs and Services

2,119

Assisted with Completion of Compensation Claims

311


Our office’s Victim/Witness Services provided 3,634 units of service in the first quarter of 2021.

BE-SAFE Domestic Violence Client Data for 2020 (DV clients only)

Total Number of New Clients Served                                          

1,326

Total Number of Client Contacts (includes repeat contacts with same individual)

4,305

Total Units of Service Provided

13,245

Safety Plans Reviewed/Initiated

1,936

Phone Legal Advocacy

3,050

In-person Court Advocacy

368

Supportive Counseling (both phone and in-person)               

2,847

Information & Referrals                                                             

3,977


In 2021, the BE-SAFE Advocacy program provided 3,133 units of service in the first quarter.