Douglas County is now officially just one of two Kansas counties to compensate victims of property crimes, joining Saline County. Although Douglas County’s program got started in April, District Attorney Charles Branson is just now spreading the news.
The program is called the Douglas County Property Crimes Compensation Fund. Now, when someone reports a property crime such as a theft or vandalism, police officers will provide the victim with information on the compensation fund. The victim fills out an application, which is reviewed by the Property Crimes Compensation Board. The board meets monthly to review the applications it has received, and then decides how much each victim should receive to compensate them for their loss in property.
Branson explained how someone might benefit.
“The construction worker down the street has a tool stolen out of his vehicle; it may not be enough to make an insurance claim to be covered by his insurance, but he’s going to have to replace that tool and go back to work the next day,” he said.
Branson said normally the only way a property crime victim can recover money from what was taken or damaged is through restitution. If a defendant is found guilty of committing a crime, he or she is generally ordered to pay the victim. But it can sometimes take months or years for a victim to receive payment.
The compensation fund could provide the victim with money almost right away.
“We have an opportunity with this program to put the money back into a victim’s hands much faster than the regular process does,” Branson said.
There are some restrictions to the program. The criminal act must have occurred on or after April 1, 2010. Restitution is capped at $250 for misdemeanors and $500 for felonies.
Douglas County has set aside a portion of the money it receives from diversions to fund the program. There’s currently $15,000 in the fund, but Branson plans to ask for $25,000 for next year. The board will meet July 16 to consider new applications for compensation.
Applications may be picked up at the district attorney’s office or the application can be found at douglas-county.com/depts/da/docs/pdf/da_apppropcrimescom.pdf.