CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County crime victims will soon have another ally inside the District Attorney's office.
The Texas Attorney General recently approved a grant for the D.A.'s office to hire a new employee to track victim's restitution. Prosecutors say the program is the first of its kind anywhere, and prosecutors from other counties applaud the idea.
The grant is for up to $42,000 to create a part- time position, whose primary focus is helping victims.
Nearly every Texas crime victim, is eligible for money from the Attorney General's Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. This new Restitution Analyst makes getting victims that money easier.
“Everything is offender-focused,” said Kathy Mills, Second Assistant District Attorney. “This is one area where we might be able to help the victims, that our office might be able to serve the community in a more well-rounded way.”
Compensation is available to pay for funeral expenses up to $6,500, medical bills, rent and relocation for domestic violence survivors, day care assistance, lost wages or support, travel expenses, and to replace property which was damaged or can't be returned. In Nueces County alone, prosecutors estimate about 2,500 victims receive millions of dollars annually.
“We're trying to put them back and make them as whole as possible,” said Mark Gonzalez, Nueces County District Attorney. “With this key person there, we have a better possibility of doing that.”
For victims, the compensation process can be frustrating.
“It takes time,” said Sharra Rodriguez, Victim Assistance Coordinator. “You have to be contacting the Attorney General on a daily basis, asking what paperwork is missing, why was it denied.”
The new restitution analyst will guide victims through the claims process. Prosecutors say they knew they had to find a way to help when a victim in a high-profile case had their claim denied.
“We weren't even aware, we weren't part of that process,” said Mills. “With a crime victim compensation analyst, that will be one stop a victim has in our office.”
When the Attorney General's office pays a victim, it tries to recoup those costs from the offender. The new Restitution Analyst would also help with those efforts.
The District Attorney's office expects to have someone in the position by Sept. 1.