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Grant increases help for victims of crime

June 01, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The financial help available to some innocent victims of crime in Maryland increased last week.

A Washington County State's Attorney's Office official calls the increase another important victory for victims in Washington County and throughout the state.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime has awarded more than $2.05 million in grant money to the Maryland Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to be used to compensate 'innocent victims of crime," according to a state news release. Last year, the compensation board received about $1.5 million in federal money, according to the release.

Eligible applicants may receive up to $45,000 for medical expenses or $25,000 for disability claims, according to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Web site. The site states that those eligible include someone who sustains a physical injury as a result of a crime or those financially dependent on a homicide victim.

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Jill Ritter, director of the victim witness unit for the Washington County State's Attorney's Office, said the grant helped pay a total of 12 claims in Washington County last fiscal year. The claims, for the period between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004, totaled nearly $30,000.

"This is great funding for victims ... especially those who don't have insurance," Ritter said.

Ritter said, in many cases, victims who need physical or emotional treatment following an act of violence against them or a loved one can not afford treatment.

"It is so important. It victimizes them all over again if they're stuck with all these bills," Ritter said. "Then, they end up in court again because they can't pay their bills."

Ritter said that money from the compensation board was helpful for a local man who sustained serious injuries in a stabbing. She said a large portion of his medical bills were paid and the man was able to seek more financial assistance nearly three years after the incident because of his condition.

"He needed a wheelchair. They paid for that wheelchair," Ritter said.

More information about the Crime Injuries Compensation Board may be obtained at www.dpscs.state. md.us/victimservs/vs_cicb. shtml. Claim applications are available by contacting the Victim Witness Unit of the Washington County State's Attorney's Office at 240-313-2000.

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