Crime victims compensation fund in good health

It's been 18 years since Terri Tucker of Kansas City became a crime victim, when two men under the influence of drugs beat her brother to death rather than pay him an $85 debt. Not a day goes by that Tucker and her mother don't think about the deal his attackers got.

"Instead of being able to be her son's voice, and have a say in his justice, the offenders were allowed to plea bargain for a much lesser sentence than that given to Danny, Tucker said.

The spotlight this week returns to the victims of crime across America, an observance at the state Capitol Monday brought state crime statistics to the forefront.

"Every month in Missouri, two children die from abuse, 21 people are killed by drunk drivers, 34 people are murdered, 126 forcible rapes are reported, Attorney General's Chief of Staff Matt Dameron said.

Every year, more than a quarter million people in Missouri become the direct or indirect victims of crime.

But over the past two decades, victims' rights have come a long way. Few prosecutors will plea bargain without their input.

"Victims have a right to come in and be a part of the process, Missouri Prosecutors Association Dean Dankelson said.

"Victim assistance programs across Missouri provide vital and supportive services for victims of crime, Public Safety Director John Britt said.

Many counties employ crime victims' advocates, people who advise crime victims of their rights and help them gain access to benefits through the Crime Victim TMs Compensation Fund.

Created by congress more than a quarter century ago and funded primarily by court fees, the fund helps crime victims pay medical, funeral, and counseling expenses. It even provides for lost wages.

Last year, Missouri paid out $9.4 million. This year, the fund is the beneficiary of a $1.3 million federal grant.

"Actually, the crime victims' compensation fund is in great health, Missouri Department of Public Safety Mark Peoples said.

More information on the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund, including the process for filing claims, is available toll-free at: (800) 347-6881 or online at the Department of Public Safety's website