New phone system will give notice of offender’s status

Sharna Johnson

A new automated system will open up a world of information for victims of local crime by giving them real-time notice about an offender’s custody status.

The Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) system is expected to be up and running in October, 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said.

“This program helps insure that victims will not slip through the cracks and that every victim will know the status of their offender as long as they are registered (in the VINE system),” Chandler said.

Paid for with a federal grant, Chandler said VINE is used throughout the country an a few larger communities in the state as a way to notify victims of updates and status changes with their offenders.

A victim can register with the system and from that point, VINE will call them at a phone of their choosing if there is any change in status.

For instance, he said, if an offender is released or escapes in the middle of the night, a phone call goes out within minutes of the update to those registered in the system to track that inmate, he said.

Alerts go out 24-hours a day every day of the year and the system will continue trying to reach a recipient for 24-hours until they enter a code acknowledging receipt of the alert.

Chandler said the system will also alert a registered user to changes in court proceedings, including last minute rescheduling or postponement of hearings.

The system will track offenders and defendants charged with crimes in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Users remain anonymous and offenders do not know who is tracking their status, he said.

And anyone can use the system including family members and others interested in tracking a case.

By state statute, Chandler said there are several types of crimes, primarily violent crimes, that require victim notification by authorities.

But in many other cases there is no notification to victims.

“This is open for any inmate, so if you’re interested in seeing where an inmate is at…(who) perhaps damaged your property that’s not covered by statute, (you can register),” he said.

“We will still continue to notify the victims through the district attorneys office of those (required) crimes (but) it broadens the scope.”

The program will be an asset to victims of all types of crime, said Pattie Johnson, director of the victim’s advocate program serving Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Johnson said it is a more direct and immediate way to let victims know what is going on than depending on mail and other notification methods which sometimes don’t reach victims.

“There’s a lot of times that defendants are released that the victims are not notified, so this is going to be great for that,” she said.

“This is a way that the victim becomes independent and takes control of their own situation. A tool like this is vital in helping victims have peace of mind.”

Johnson said her staff of five advocates average 100-200 cases each, predominately assisting victims of violent crimes.

Johnson said the security of knowing an offender is in jail and they will be told if they’re released — especially in domestic violence or sexual assault cases — can go a long way toward giving peace to a victim.

There are many cases such as robberies or burglaries, where people would like to know what’s going on with their case and they don’t always get the information or are forced to go look it up themselves, she said.