Financial help is available to victims of crimes — from rape and murder to domestic violence — through the Ohio Attorney General’s Crime Victims Assistance and Prevention program.
Locally, people who think they may be eligible for compensation can call victims advocate Brenda Gray-Morgan at the Help Hotline Crisis Center Victims of Crime Hotline. Funded by the state Attorney General’s Office, it can be reached by calling 330-747-2696.
Gray-Morgan, who has a criminal justice degree from Youngstown State University, has worked at Help Hotline for four years and been a victims advocate for three years.
As a victims advocate, she accompanies victims to court cases and advises them of the benefits for which they may be available, including financial compensation.
Gray-Morgan said the compensation money comes from court fines paid by criminals, not from tax dollars.
She said about $5,000 is the average amount paid to victims, but it can go up to $50,000. That may sound like a lot of money, but medical and therapy and counseling and lost wages can add up quickly, she said.
The only catch, she said, is that a victim is not eligible if he or she has a felony conviction within the last 10 years.
“I think information about the compensation program needs to be put out for the general public, and specifically because of the recent incident in which a YSU student was murdered at an off-campus event,” said Duane Piccirilli, Help Hotline executive director.
Gray-Morgan, who works primarily in Mahoning County, estimated she receives 500 to 600 calls a year from people victimized by crime.
It’s a passion for me because I was on the other side. Some people are really scared. I understand what they are going through,” Gray-Morgan said.
Individuals or family members who are victims of a violent crime can get a list of guidelines to help determine eligibility by visiting online at ohioattorneygeneral.gov, then click on “Services” and then “applying for victims compensation.” For specific questions, call the Attorney General’s Office at 800- 582-2877. Locally, they can contact the Youngstown Attorney General’s Office at 330-884-7500.