Press-Republican

October 28, 2013

Statewide victim alert program expanding

FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — A statewide domestic violence victim notification system is expanding, and it's already in place in the North Country.

A $495,000 grant given to the Sheriffs' Association Institute from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance enabled the creation of the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification Network (SAVIN), according to a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office.

The system is used to instantly notify victims, by text message, email, fax or automated phone call, when a Family Court order of protection is served.

The service runs around the clock, seven days a week.

'EXTREMELY HELPFUL'

"This order-of-protection notification will similarly be an extremely helpful tool," Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Evanovich said in an email.

For instance, offenders who are issued a "stay away" order of protection are often required to remain a certain amount of distance away from the victim, he said.

"Notification from the e-alert is helpful here, as the protected party can be sure that the offender is now aware of this provision, and even if the offender unintentionally comes near in a public place, it is on the offender to leave the area immediately — otherwise they are committing a crime."

'TIMELY NOTIFICATIONS'

"Domestic violence victims should take advantage of any and all safety measures at their disposal when in a dangerous situation,” said Gwen Wright, executive director of the state’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, in a press release.

“The time immediately following when an order of protection is served can be the most dangerous for a victim of domestic violence,” Cuomo said in the release. 

“But when armed with the technology that the SAVIN system provides, victims of domestic violence can receive timely notifications and take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from further harm."

The program is being piloted in Family Courts in Manhattan and Staten Island now, with pilots to run in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens next year.

Orders issued by criminal courts could be added to the notification system in the future, the release said.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Orders of protection often require offenders to hand over to local law enforcement all firearms they possess within 24 hours, Evanovich said.

"The alert system will let the protected party know that they can reasonably expect any firearm owned by the offender to be out of their hands by the end of the day."

The alert system will also notify the victim that, once released, the offender has been advised he or she is not legally permitted to reach the victim online through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, he said.

INCREASED PENALTIES

An order of protection increases the penalties for other crimes the convicted person may perpetrate, Evanovich said. 

"This alert will make sure the protected party knows that even low-level violations of law such as harassment or disorderly conduct can become felonies, since the offender has now been put on notice by court order not to commit any such crime."

Evanovich said a similar notification service, Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINELink), is available online to alert victims when an offender is released from custody.

Access VINELink at vinelink.com.

Register to receive SAVIN alerts at www.nyalert.gov; click on the “orders of protection” box on the left menu.

Email Felicia Krieg:  fkrieg@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @FeliciaKrieg