News & Events

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Volume 8, Number 3

Attorneys General Active In Crime Victims’ Rights And Consumer Protection Campaigns

March and April bring attention and activity by the attorneys general to the issues of consumer protection and crime victims’ rights with two national public awareness campaigns. April 6-12 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, with a theme of “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice.” Attorneys general across the country will be participating in state events and spreading information about services to those in need.

Only 30 years ago, crime victims had virtually no rights and no assistance. The criminal justice system often seemed indifferent to their needs. Victims were commonly excluded from courtrooms and denied the chance to speak at sentencing. They had no access to victim compensation or services to help rebuild their lives. There were few avenues to deal with their emotional and physical wounds.

Today, the nation has made dramatic progress in securing rights, protections, and services for victims. Every state has enacted victims’ rights laws and all have victim compensation programs. More than 10,000 victim service agencies now help people throughout the country. In 1984, Congress passed the bipartisan Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which created a national fund to ease victims’ suffering. Financed not by taxpayers but by fines and penalties paid by offenders, the Crime Victims Fund supports victim services, such as rape crisis and domestic violence programs and victim compensation programs that pay many of victims’ out-of-pocket expenses from the crime, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and lost wages.

“Victims are no longer bystanders. They have the right to information, to be present, to provide input, to receive restitution and to be treated with dignity, with respect for their privacy and with sensitivity,” said National Association of Attorneys General President and Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. “We pay tribute to these principles during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.”

Victims’ rights advocates have scored remarkable victories over the last 30 years, but there is still work to be done, including expanding outreach to underserved victim populations and focusing on abuses often not reported or prosecuted---hate and bias crimes, bullying and sex trafficking.

“Our commitment to reaching every victim of crime is stronger than ever,” said Joye E. Frost, director, Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. “For 30 years, VOCA has represented hope, healing and justice. Our message to victims of crime is this: You are not alone.”

Check your state attorney’s general website for more information and the federal website for its Washington, D.C. event on April 9, http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/events.html.

National Consumer Protection Week:

Attorneys general participated in National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 2 – 8, to help increase public awareness on issues regarding scam artists, identity theft, fraud, and unlawful business practices. The offices of state attorneys general approached consumer protection through a variety of efforts and events with a few of the highlights outlined below:

Rhode Island – Shred-a-Thon

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin hosted his second annual Shred-a-Thon event in locations across the state. While educating Rhode Islanders on identity theft issues and sharing methods of effective consumer protection, Attorney General Kilmartin also incorporated an element of charity into his event to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

Participants were asked to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the food bank in exchange for secure destruction of personal documents. They also received an official certificate promising all documents were handled with the highest degree of security.

The company conducting the shredding, Doc Shredding Corp., provided securely locked trucks to collect and dispose of documents in an environmentally-friendly manner. After the paper was shredded, it was then recycled instead of deposited into Rhode Island landfills.

Nevada – Twitter Town Hall

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto hosted an event during Consumer Protection Week as part of her two-year-old initiative Home Again: Nevada Homeowner Relief Program. The Attorney General’s Office organized a “Twitter Town Hall” for an hour on Friday, March 7 to address the housing needs of homeowners in Nevada. By including the hashtag, #AskHomeAgain, in their tweets, Nevadans had the opportunity to communicate live with housing counselors on matters such as buying a home, credit restoration, loan modification, and foreclosure.

Ohio – Video Tip of the Day

The office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched a video campaign for Consumer Protection Week offering advice to consumers on topics such as social media, digital cookies, and online shopping. Through these videos, the Attorney General’s Office advised consumers to pay close attention to privacy settings on websites they visit and how to confirm a website is secure based on the format of the URL. They also encouraged consumers to avoid releasing personal information about family members, addresses, or birthdays on social media platforms and, finally, to never conduct checking or banking transactions using a public Wi-Fi network.

Louisiana – Annual Workshop & LifeSmarts Competition

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell hosted his 10th annual Consumer Protection Workshop on March 7 to focus on topics such as military and veteran’s consumer issues, credit card fraud, payday lending, and mortgage information. While many issues of consumer protection resonate with consumers as individuals, Attorney General Caldwell took the opportunity to also emphasize the importance of businesses knowing their rights in order to make better-informed decisions and avoid potential scams.

Also in conjunction with Consumer Protection Week, on March 14 the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office welcomed six high school teams from across the state to compete in the LifeSmarts Ultimate Consumer Challenge. The Louisiana youth were among thousands of students across the nation who participated in their states’ LifeSmarts Challenge to become more aware of their rights as consumers and preparing them to make informed decisions as adults.

Students participating in the competition were probed with questions on consumer issues including personal finance, health and safety, technology, and environmental concerns. Following the state competitions, the winners move onto the LifeSmarts National Competition in Orlando, Fla., where they have the potential to receive academic scholarships and other prizes based on their performance.

For consumer tips and more NCPW information, go to https://www.ncpw.gov/.

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Rhode Island AG Peter Kilmartin <i>, second from right,</i> appears at a local shred-a-thon event and food drive in March.
Rhode Island AG Peter Kilmartin , second from right, appears at a local shred-a-thon event and food drive in March.

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