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William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000 firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2000
Steinhaus Year 2001 Budget Includes Focus on Crime Victims
Poughkeepsie, NY – County Executive William R. Steinhaus today announced his year 2001 Executive Budget includes several criminal justice system initiatives based upon the recommendations of the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council (CJC). The $635,000 cost of the initiatives is included in the Year 2001 Steinhaus budget with no property tax increase for the sixth time in nine budgets. Including those new initiatives, the Year 2001 County Budget will still have a property tax levy lower than when Steinhaus took office in 1992.
Steinhaus noted, "Criminal justice is one of the core responsibilities of county government and while I am County Executive will always be a top priority of the County’s work plan. Protecting our quality of life and safety for our citizens is of paramount importance to our future."
"As we continue to look at a criminal justice system as an all inclusive continuum, we are better able to identify areas needing attention. This year council members have focused on those who sometimes get left out of system planning -- the victims," said Hamilton Meserve, Chairman of the Criminal Justice Council and a member of the County Legislature. Meserve continued, "I believe the Council has identified opportunities for next year to strengthen and enhance victims’ assistance programs which have shown positive results."
District Attorney William Grady stated, "I commend County Executive Steinhaus for taking this initiative. These proposals will greatly increase our ability to effectively prosecute these crimes, and will provide victims themselves with much needed and enhanced services and assistance."
The Steinhaus budget initiatives include:
Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) Program — The Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office advises that reported incidents of domestic violence have increased 45% from 1995 to 2000. DART is a collaborative effort of the Poughkeepsie City Court, law enforcement, Probation, the District Attorney’s office, a local advocacy agency, and the batterer’s intervention program designed to provide an aggressive response to domestic violence. The proposed Executive Budget provides additional funding to expand DART beyond the City of Poughkeepsie where it was launched by District Attorney Grady and County Executive Steinhaus as a pilot effort in 1998. More than 40% of reported domestic violence incidents occur in the City of Poughkeepsie. With the inclusion of the city of Beacon and the town of Poughkeepsie 75% of all county-wide reported domestic violence incidents will be covered. The DART project supports early intervention and prevention to help prevent future violence; increases support to the victim through immediate advocacy, increased services and increased victim safety; increases offender accountability through improved monitoring; and enhances coordinated community response. So far this year, over 212 victims have received services through the DART program. This enhanced DART proposal represents an additional county commitment of $123,000 for a total county commitment of $415,508.
Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program — National statistics indicate that only 30% of sexual assault victims seeking medical/crisis intervention are willing to report the assault to law enforcement. In response, the Dutchess County SAFE program was established in 1997 to bring together a team of professionals including forensic medical professionals, traditional medical professionals and hospitals, police agencies, victims’ services and the District Attorney to improve the quality of evidence available in sexual assault cases. The results have been dramatic, allaying fears and providing confidence to victims that the legal process works to protect them and hold the offender accountable. In Dutchess, approximately 80% of those involved with the SAFE program have reported the sexual assault to law enforcement authorities and the Dutchess County conviction rate is four times greater than the national conviction rate. In order to increase prosecutions, community safety, number of under-served victims of crime and cost effectiveness of current programming, the Enhanced SAFE Project will offer 24 hour upgraded services to sexual assault victims county wide, and will broaden its reach to include domestic violence victims, elder abuse, child abuse, homicide, and DWI’s. A $100,000 investment will enable the Dutchess County Health Department, through the recruitment and forensic training of existing nursing personnel, to become more active partners, enabling better coordination with existing public health programming and improved forensic coverage.
Crime Victims Program — The Crime Victims Program has been helping victims in Dutchess County for many years. Approximately 86% of crime victims it serves are females and 19% are under the age of 18. The program provides services to victims of all crimes and is available to any victim or their family members living, working or attending school in Dutchess County. Direct services may include 24 hour intervention and emotional support; counseling services for primary and secondary victims at no charge; financial, transportation and child care support and assistance; and legal, medical, employment and social services advocacy. The additional allocation proposed in from Dutchess County of $44,000 together with the present allocation of $59,000 helps leverage additional non-county funds to increase the program’s accessibility and expand its reach to victims of crime in the eastern, northern, and southern regions of the county. For the first time, bi-lingual services will be provided to assist non-English speaking crime victims.
The Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council was created at the recommendation of County Executive Steinhaus and it was established by the Legislature in 1993. The council was created as a permanent, independent body to collaborate and advise both the County Executive and the Legislature on policy formation and solutions, and to provide a managed response to all critical issues involving the criminal justice system. "The Criminal Justice Council has made suggestions for various initiatives," said Steinhaus. "I have placed these initiatives in the Executive Budget to allow for a thorough examination and discussion of each initiative during the budget review process in the Legislature. This examination process guarantees the cooperation and collaboration of a broad cross section of our community, and inevitably, it helps formulate solutions that are representative of our community."
The membership of the Dutchess County CJC is made up of every element of the criminal justice system. It includes law enforcement and corrections, the judiciary, District Attorney, Youth Bureau, Departments of Mental Hygiene, Social Services, Planning and Development, various community organizations, educational institutions and county residents.
"I take the safety of our residents very seriously and I feel my 2001 Executive Budget reflects this top priority without raising property taxes of our homeowners. These new efforts extend our commitment and has special emphasis on violence abuse to women and children," Steinhaus said.
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