McCrobie takes care of victims of violent crimes in Tyler County
With every passing second and minute, another person falls victim to violent crime.
One woman is victimized by an intimate partner every 52 seconds. One man is victimized every 3.5 minutes. One child is reported abused or neglected every 34.9 seconds.
Every second and minute matters, and Tyler County Victim’s Advocate Joni McCrobie’s job is to make sure every victim of crime is taken care of.
“My primary (duty) as Victim’s Advocate is to do prosecution-based victim advocacy,” explained McCrobie. “Prosecution-based victim advocacy is providing services to victims of crimes where there are criminal charges pursued.
That includes keeping the victims informed about what’s going on in court and with the state in the criminal justice system. McCrobie notifies the victims of the proceedings, so if they want to come to court they have the right to do so.
“They don’t have to, but they do have the right to come to court and I let them know when that is happening,” remarked McCrobie.
McCrobie’s responsibilities also involve providing emotional support, crisis counseling, and personal advocacy. These services include making referrals to other social service agencies. She helps them with filing crime victims compensation fund claims, victim impact statements, and assists them with getting restitution ordered.
“Most importantly I act as a liaison to help communicate with everyone involved in the case, including the prosecutor and the police,” added McCrobie. “Whoever is involved, I’m kind of the middleman for that. I provide feedback to the prosecutor during plea negotiations. I try to make sure everybody is aware of what the other party’s thoughts and feelings are regarding the case when plea negotiations are happening.”
Many of the cases McCrobie deals with involve domestic violence. Often the victims choose not to press charges, but still need help. The Victim’s Advocate office provides services to victims of domestic violence when there are no criminal charges pursued. McCrobie can assist them in preparing a petition for a protective order through magistrate court and provide transportation to an emergency shelter, which is managed by the Family Crisis Intervention Center.
The State of West Virginia recently started another program to help victims of domestic violence, thanks to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, the West Virginia State Police, the FBI, and more than two dozen other state, federal, and private entities
The West Virginia’s Domestic Violence Registry and Statewide Database is a new tool used to communicate domestic violence protective orders to law enforcement. It will enhance the enforcement of those protective orders by providing law enforcement officers the most up-to-date information on a court’s actions. The information will be available through the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC.
“It has taken years to reach this point, and many people in a number of agencies are to be commended,” said Chief Justice Brent D. Benjamin. “This type of collaboration is a hallmark of our Twenty-First Century Court system.”
The Registry will allow a law enforcement officer to know whether a current protective order is in effect as that officer responds to a call, enhancing the safety of both the officer and the potential victim. The database that supports the Registry will have a scanned copy of the actual protective order, so there will be no confusion about what it actually says, who issued it, and whether it is still in effect.
Each night, the computer system pulls those new orders, formats them, and submits them through the West Virginia State Police into the National Crime Information Center. Law enforcement officers nationwide have access to that system.
McCrobie’s job is funded in part by a Victims Of Crime Act grant (VOCA). The Tyler County Commission has a cash match and an in-kind match that they provide. The commission pays for training. All services offered by the Victim’s Advocate office are free and confidential.
The toughest part of her job is keeping the victims motivated during the legal proceedings, which can often take months.
“It’s very hard for the victim to understand why it’s taking so long and why there are so many different stages that have to be completed before they actually get to a trial or get to a place where there is a plea,” commented McCrobie. “That’s the only place the victim actually sees justice is in the end and it takes so long to get to that point.”
“I think that one of the good points about having a Victim’s Advocate in this office is, hopefully, you secure the victim’s participation and feedback during the process by having someone who is keeping in touch with them and keeping them informed,” added McCrobie. “You’re keeping them interested and involved in the case.”
Last year Tyler County Victim’s Advocate provided aid to 140 victims of crimes and 40 victims of domestic violence. Of the 140, 126 were adults and 14 were juveniles. The services are for anyone affected by crime.
“It’s important that people know our program is here for all victims of crime,” said McCrobie. “It doesn’t have to be domestic violence and rape. It can be destruction of property and harassment. We help with all those things in any way we can.”
For more information about the Tyler County Victim’s Advocate Office, contact McCrobie at 304-758-2860.