Informing victims of crime Notification: Technology helps people track cases involving crimes against them.

January 29, 1998

AN AUTOMATED telephone notification system for crime victims is up and running in Carroll County this month, the first in Maryland and the first in the United States that includes information from the courts.

It's a good example of how victims' rights can be bolstered without compromising the legal rights of the accused. The system should help to ease the anxieties of many victims and witnesses, who may fear retaliation by suspects or who want to keep up with developments in their cases.

Victims who register with the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) system, operated nationwide from Louisville, Ky., will be telephoned whenever a change occurs in the status of a criminal court case in the county. Detention and court records are updated by computer every 10 minutes, with rapid automated telephone calls to registered victims. Letters are also mailed to confirm custody and court changes.

The VINE notification system is being used by more than 400 communities in 29 states. It has proved itself over five years. For security purposes, registered people must enter an identification number to access information. Witnesses and family of victims are also eligible for notification.

Carroll is the first jurisdiction to include court records, telling victims of changes in the docket or adjudication status. The local program was funded by a $24,000 grant from the Maryland Victims of Crime Fund, which receives court fees from criminal defendants.

Other Maryland counties hope to follow suit; the state's long-term hope is to link all custody facilities and courts statewide with VINE. Montgomery County expects to begin service this spring.

Already, some 100 people in Carroll have registered for VINE notification. The participants are testifying to the system's effect on their peace of mind.

"It definitely will help me relax, knowing that the computer will automatically call me if [the alleged shooter] gets out of jail," Linda Bond, the Taneytown pizza delivery woman who was robbed and shot a year ago, told The Sun. "I still feared [the robbers] would get out of jail and come looking for me."

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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