Campaign continues to promote and support available services for victim and witnesses of crime to come forward;
Campaign also targets additional services for domestic violence victims in light of spike during the COVID-19 pandemic;
1-877-SAO-4TIP hotline launches for the public to anonymously report crime directly to the State’s Attorney’s Office
BALTIMORE (October 29, 2020) - This week, the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office (SAO) launched Phase II of the ‘Together We Are Stronger' campaign continuing the public education push to remind residents about the support and services for victims and witnesses of crime in Baltimore City. The campaign also includes a targeted push to share resources available for domestic violence victims in light of the spike during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baltimore City has seen an increase in domestic violence calls since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. This comes as national statistics show an increase in domestic violence cases as victims are forced to stay at home with their abusers.
TurnAround, a local victim services agency for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking, reported in July that their call volume for services has increased by 300 percent in the last six months compared to the previous time period.
“As we all adjust to our new norms of living with this global pandemic, we must continue to remain vigilant about ensuring that both victims and witnesses aren’t suffering in silence and feel supported and protected throughout the judicial process and beyond,“ said State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby
The campaign also includes a dedicated resource page on the agency’s website, billboards, a toll-free tip line to report crime, and a series of public service announcements that will run on television and radio stations across the city. These will tell authentic stories from the perspective of family members who have been impacted by crime while highlighting an array of victim and witness services such as court accompaniment, victim witness relocation, sign language interpreters, victim/impact statements, transportation arrangement and grief counseling.
"Many of our residents are staying at home or in nearby communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes exacerbating difficult situations by being in close contact and confines with criminal activity,” said State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “These factors have contributed to an increase in domestic violence cases, so we want to ensure that all parties affected by this damaging crime are aware of the resources available to them."
This campaign is the most recent milestone in the Mosby administration’s commitment to keeping Victim and Witness Services a paramount priority for the agency. Since 2015, the Baltimore City SAO has secured over $7.9 million in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant funds through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention including $50,000 in COVID relief funding for personal protection equipment. The grant funds have underwritten this campaign and provided the support for the Baltimore City SAO to double the size of the Victim and Witness Services Unit, adding 20 new victim advocate positions that are assigned to every division of the Baltimore City SAO. In the past two years, the office has served 18,586 victims and witnesses – 34 times the 546 victims and witnesses served in 2015. This year alone, the office has served 7,199 victims and witnesses to date.
In March of 2018, the Baltimore City SAO unveiled a new trauma-informed therapeutic Victim and Witness Services Waiting Room in the Mitchell Courthouse that was renovated to create a more welcoming space for victims and witnesses of crime to receive services and await their appearances in court. The renovation included a dedicated play area for children, power-integrated furniture, and a computer allowing visitors to access resources while they await trial. In 2019, the agency also launched an app that community members can download called the Community Court Watch App, an on-line tool that allows the user to track cases, available through Google Play and the Apple App store.
In 2018, approximately 35% of the cases that we dismissed were due to the lack of victim/witness cooperation and/or victim/witness unavailability. Last year 30% of the cases we dismissed were due to the lack of victim/witness cooperation.
"If you or your loved one are a victim or witness of a crime, please call 1-877-SAO-4TIP and visit TogetherWeAreStronger.com for information on local resources available," said State's Attorney Mosby. "We must prioritize resources to ensure the protection and support for victim and witnesses of crime to make it easy to come forward and put an end to the vicious cycle of witness intimidation and the “stop snitching” mentality.”