In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Virginia Center for Policing Innovation (VCPI) reminds the citizens of the Commonwealth of an important tool called the Victim Information & Notification Everyday (VINE®) Program. Managed by VCPI, VINE® is a free, automated notification service operating 24 hours a day that alerts crime victims, family members and other concerned citizens when offenders are transferred, released or escape from Virginia’s local and regional jails.
Virginia VINE® is part of a nationwide safety initiative founded and begun in 1994 by the Kentucky-based company, Appriss, after a young woman named Mary Byron was raped and three weeks later murdered following her assailant posting bond. At that time, an automated system did not exist for notifying victims, victims’ families or other concerned citizens when an offender was released from jail. Today, the system plays a crucial part in the safety and well-being of crime victims, alerting them and other registrants within 15 minutes of an offender’s “movement.”
“Public awareness of VINE® is essential,” said Lynda O’Connell, Executive Director of VCPI. “We want domestic abuse survivors and their families to know that this tool is out there for them and to take the time to register. We need participation from both the jails and those impacted to fully take advantage of this program and make sure that we keep victims and their families as safe as possible.”
In order to begin receiving these critical notifications, users must first register for the service in one of three simple ways: online at www.vinelink.com, over the phone by calling Virginia VINE® at 1-800-467-4943 or with the VINE Mobile App. The VINE Mobile App was launched in April 2013 with more than 400,000 mobile searches launched in Virginia. The Mobile App searches in VINELink and also allows the victim to register to be notified. Registrants need to know the incarcerated person’s last name and at least the first initial of the first name. Once an offender has been identified in the system, the registrant selects a PIN to be used for notification. When the offender is released, transferred or if they escape from jail, the registrant is notified within 15 minutes via phone and/or email and asked to enter the PIN to verify the message was received. These phone calls continue every 30 minutes until the PIN is entered.
“VINE® is a service for anyone involved in a criminal offense case,” said John Jones, Executive Director of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association. “In addition to victims, we encourage law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, friends, family members and other concerned community members to register; anyone who feels it is vital for their safety or the safety of a loved one to track the status of an offender. It’s one simple step that could mean all the difference in a person’s life.”
In Virginia today, 100 percent of the local and regional jails participate in VINE®. As of October 2014, the Commonwealth had 28,595 offenders in custody in local and regional jails and 18,470 VINE® users registered to receive notifications. Since the service was launched in Virginia, VINE® has delivered more than 200,000 emails and 600,000 phone calls to registered users.
“We are proud to offer this critical service throughout the Commonwealth,” stated Lynda O’Connell, Executive Director of VCPI. “We want to make sure this resource is used to its maximum potential by those who can benefit most from it: the citizens of Virginia and those working to protect them.”