Annual race for victim aid cash underway

Homicide Survivors, Inc. vigil
Homicide Survivors, Inc., one of the organizations which will apply for grant money, holds a candlelight vigil for the victims of homicide at Children’s Memorial Park. Photograph taken by Todd Blomhurst.

Advocates for victims of crime not only have to fight for the safety and empowerment of their beneficiaries, they also have to fight each other.

A competitive selection process began on Feb. 1 to determine which Arizona programs would receive money from the Crime Victim Assistance fund. Public and tribal agencies as well as private, non-profit organizations whose primary beneficiaries are victims of crime will be able to submit an application to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission until March 11 to carve out a piece of the $1,444,200 disbursement for fiscal year 2017.

“Does it provide direct services to victims, that is the specific focus of the victim services program,” says Andrew LeFevre, the public information officer for the ACJC. 

Organizations that submit applications to the ACJC will be given scores based on criteria such as how the program assists victims, the need for such services, the adequacy of the organization’s efforts to combat the problem, and how realistic and achievable the goals of the program are.

One of the public non-profit organizations that received the most funds in 2016 was New Leaf, Inc., which shelters victims of domestic violence. It received $41,600 last year, the second-highest amount awarded to a non-profit, and plan to file again for fiscal year 2017.

“We have two domestic violence shelters, a hotline for central shelter acceptance, and court advocacy programs, that is where our funding from ACJC goes to,” says Kathy Dinolfi, the chief program officer for New Leaf. “The funds we get from the Victim Assistance fund is absolutely vital. We can’t do victim assistance work without this kind of funding each year.”

The amount of money that is approved for disbursement has largely stayed the same year to year, but LeFevre is optimistic about the services that the state will be able to provide victims in the future. He cites a loosening of federal purse-strings over the last two years that has seen over $30 million distributed to Arizona as part of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984.

While the ACJC’s disbursement will not include those funds, “there is going to be a greater ability in the victim assistance community because of all of the new federal money coming in,” says LeFevre.

The focus for awarding the grants is on entities that provide immediate assistance to victims of crime in Arizona. T

The money fed into the Crime Victim Assistance Fund is collected from fines and fees which defendants pay when they go to court, and victim restitution funds.

The breakdown of funding between public and private organizations has been fairly even over the years, with public entities such as county attorney’s offices, which help victims cover the costs associated with going to court, receiving slightly more of the funds than the non-profits.

Applications for funding must be submitted by Friday, March 11 at 3 p.m. A list of those which will receive funding will be posted on the ACJC website Friday, June 1.

Mike Beckwith is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at mlb146@email.arizona.edu.

Click here for high-resolution photos, and Excel spreadsheets detailing Crime Victim Assistance Fund grant recipients 

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