California Victim Compensation Program aims to reach more Bay Area victims of crime 

click to enlarge An advertising campaign by the California Victim Compensation Program has been appearing on regional transit systems to tell victims about the available help. - COURTESY CALIFORNIA VICTIM COMPENSATION PROGRAM
  • Courtesy California Victim Compensation Program
  • An advertising campaign by the California Victim Compensation Program has been appearing on regional transit systems to tell victims about the available help.

No one plans to be a victim of a crime. But it happens.

Many victims of violent crimes in the Bay Area may not realize they have access to a broad swath of assistance in getting their lives back together through the California Victim Compensation Program, but a new advertising effort on regional transit systems aims to rectify that situation.

The CalVCP provides compensation for victims of violent crime who are injured and threatened with injury, and the organization is beginning a campaign to advertise its services on BART, AC Transit and Muni called "CalVCP Can Help," according to Anne Gordon, a spokeswoman for the organization.

The campaign, which began last week and will run through September, is intended to reach what CalVCP says are four of the top 10 most violent cities in California: Oakland, Richmond, Antioch and San Francisco.

Those cities were chosen not just because of their crime rates, figures that CalVCP pulled from a 2012 FBI report, but also because they were representative of the high number of violent crimes in relation to the low number of CalVCP applications for assistance, Gordon said.

According to CalVCP spokesman Jon Myers, only 15 percent of Bay Area victims of crimes have applied for assistance through the program and the advertising effort is to try and reach that 85 percent that have not requested assistance.

"It's a shame because there's so much being offered," Myers said.

The program can help victims of violent crime to cover up to $5,000 in unexpected funeral expenses, Myers said.

The program also helps with medical bills, mental health treatment and more, Gordon said.

The posters will appear in English and Spanish and depict victims of violence with text that reads "Haven't victims paid enough?" and "Recovery from violent crime shouldn't come with a price tag."

The posters are meant to be provocative by showing models with realistic looking injuries like cuts and bruises.

"It's not a pretty subject," Myers said. "There's no fluff to it."

The posters also direct victims to the program's website and phone number, Gordon said. Victims can apply online or over the phone. Generally, local district attorney's offices would also help guide victims through the process as well.

The San Francisco District Attorney's Office, through its Victims Services Division, "provided 5,892 victims and witnesses of crime with free, comprehensive advocacy and support in five languages," spokesman Max Szabo said. "These services range from assistance with psychological and physical therapy, to covering burial expenses."

District Attorney George Gascón said the program is helpful to prevent victims of crime from later becoming offenders.

"It's absolutely essential that victims of crime utilize the resources that are available to them," he said. "Research shows that crime leaves victims vulnerable to more crime, and the cycle of victimization is such that today's victim could be tomorrow's offender if they do not get the proper help to heal."

CalVCP, which has been helping victims of crime since 1965, is the first program in the nation to do so and is currently the largest victim compensation program in the country.

The program is targeting the ads to lower income areas and areas deemed to be higher in crime that have low requests for assistance, but the program is available to victims in all income levels, whether they are insured or not, Gordon said.

The program is largely funded through restitution fines and fees, penalties assessed on those convicted of crimes, and traffic offenses, along with matching federal funds.

For more information on the program, visit calvcp.ca.gov.

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