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PHILADELPHIA (PA) DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE - COMMISSION ON VICTIM ASSISTANCE - A REPORT ON ACTIVITIES, OCTOBER 1974 - OCTOBER 1975 - VICTIMS ARE PEOPLE

NCJ Number
63067
Author(s)
ANON
Date Published
1975
Annotation
A RESEARCH PROJECT PURSUED CONCURRENTLY WITH A PROGRAM FOR AIDING VICTIMS AND WITNESSES IN PHILADELPHIA AIMED TO DETERMINE THESE PARTIES' EXPERIENCES WITH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND THEIR GRIEVANCES.
Abstract
A PRIMARY GOAL WAS TO PINPOINT WHY THESE PERSONS ARE RELUCTANT TO TESTIFY (THIS RELUCTANCE IS A MAJOR OBSTACLE TO THE SUCCESSFUL PROSECUTION OF CASES IN THE JURISDICTION, WITH A SURVEY SHOWING 70 PERCENT OF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS (D.A.'S) PERCEIVING IT AS A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM). THIS FINDING COULD THEN BE FUNNELED INTO DEVISING IMPROVEMENTS THAT WOULD ENCOURAGE TESTIMONY. DATA WERE COMPILED FROM THE SURVEYS OF (1) APPROXIMATELY 800 VICTIMS AND WITNESSES, (2) ALL PHILADELPHIA ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, (3) ALL MEMBERS OF THE PHILADELPHIA JUDICIARY, (4) APPROXIMATELY 200 MEMBERS OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT, (5) 60 WITNESSES WHO WERE SUBPOENAED BUT DID NOT APPEAR, AND (6) 100 PEOPLE WHO FILED PRIVATE CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS. ANALYSIS OF RESPONSES SHOWED THAT MOST VICTIMS HAD EXPERIENCED PROPERTY CRIMES, MOST HAD TO APPEAR AT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT, COURT, AND THE D.A.'S OFFICE IN CONNECTION WITH THE CRIME, AND MOST HAD SUFFICIENT TIME TO ARRANGE PERSONAL SCHEDULES FOR THESE APPEARANCES. HOWEVER, A MAJORITY FELT THAT LOSS OF PAY, LONG PERIODS OF WAITING DURING THE TRIAL AND IN THE COURTROOM, AND FREQUENT TRIPS TO AND FROM THE COURT WERE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF THE EXPERIENCE. MANY DID NOT RECOVER LOST PROPERTY AS A RESULT OF THEIR EFFORTS. CONCLUSIONS DRAWN FROM THE RESULTS INCLUDE THE NEED TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE COURT AND VICTIMS AND WITNESSES ON HOW TO RECEIVE A WITNESS FEE AND HOW TO RECEIVE STOLEN PROPERTY RECOVERED BY POLICE. VICTIMS SHOULD BE HELPED TO A BETTER AWARENESS OF THE COURT PROCESS AND OF THEIR BASIC RIGHTS. THE D.A.'S OFFICE MIGHT OPERATE WITH OR THROUGH COMMUNITY ORGANIZATONS IN DEALING WITH VICTIMS AND WITNESSES OF NEIGHBORHOOD CRIMES. THE COMMON PLEAS COURTS SHOULD ESTABLISH A RECEPTION CENTER AND ALERT SYSTEM TO HELP ELIMINATE EXCESSIVE WAITING AND UNNECESSARY TRIPS TO THE COURT ON THE PART OF VICTIMS AND WITNESSES. A SPEEDIER COURT PROCESS WITH FEWER POSTPONEMENTS AND BETTER CASE SCHEDULING WOULD IMPROVE THE SITUATION. TABULAR DATA ARE INCLUDED. (MRK)