DC bill would expand support for crime victims

A new bill aims to help victims of violent crime in D.C. both financially and emotionally.

The Expanding Supports for Crime Victims Amendment Act of 2021 would expand eligibility for victim compensation, create new “crime victim advocates” for certain serious crimes and strengthen the District’s hospital-based violence intervention programs, according to a news release.

Council Member Charles Allen, who represents Ward 6 — which encompasses Capitol Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods — introduced the legislation Monday.

Allen chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety for the D.C. Council.

“Hospital-based interventions are an effective part of the District’s violence interruption work, engaging with victims at the hospital with serious injuries like gunshot or stabbing wounds where a retaliatory act is far more likely without intervention,” the release said.

“Crime victims need safety and healing to move forward,” Allen said. “That doesn’t happen automatically in our criminal justice system. This is an opportunity to take more of a public health approach to supporting victims, and it will help us reduce gun violence, by treating trauma and violence like a contagious disease and aggressively stopping its spread. In the midst of the pandemic, when the District is experiencing an increase in homicides and gun violence, the axiom ‘Hurt people hurt people’ rings all too true.”

Allen’s bill recommends expanding D.C. Superior Court’s Crime Victims Compensation Program for “the number of offenses for which victims and their families can apply, including for elder abuse and destruction of property by intimate partners or due to gunshots.”

The bill would also cover some mental health and counseling.

New “crime victim advocates” would be created under the bill as well “to help victims understand their options and resources in a time of crisis.”

“The District has similar counselors in the sexual assault, human trafficking, and domestic violence contexts,” the release said. “This position would serve victims of serious crimes like attempted murder, assault with intent to kill or commit sexual abuse, aggravated assault and assault with a dangerous weapon. Any confidential information shared by the victim with their advocate would be strictly protected.”

Read more about the bill online.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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