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Like many other survivors of domestic violence, Mary Byron was told she would be notified when her abuser was being released from jail. Unfortunately, like many others, that notification never came. Rather, Byron went to work at a mall in Louisville, Ky., as usual on Dec. 6, 1993. After her shift, as she sat in the parking lot warming up her car to drive home, she was gunned down—shot seven times at close range by her abuser. Someone had posted bail for Byron’s ex-boyfriend and law enforcement failed to warn her. She died on her 21st birthday.
“The community was really shaken by the story. They said there is an obvious gap in the system, and we don’t ever want this to happen again,” says Krisy Bucher, marketing analyst in the public safety division of Appriss, a company that helps provide technology to communities to prevent tragedies like Byron’s.
From the outrage was born VINE, or Victim Information and Notification Everyday, a victim notification service aimed at keeping crime victims apprised of their offenders’ incarceration status. The service was developed in 1994 by Appriss in Louisville’s Jefferson County and has since expanded to 48 states (Maine and South Dakota do not subscribe). Government agencies share their databases with VINE in near real time (up to a 45-minute delay) and VINE sends immediate notifications to victims who’ve registered.
“It’s really easy,” Bucher says. “When you go to VINE, it’ll prompt you for a state and you’ll search for the offender by name. Then you can register for notifications.”
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Anyone who’s been booked into jail can be located in the database, no matter the crime. That means you can register for notifications regarding an abuser even if he or she is arrested for non-DV crimes.
Notifications can be made by email, fax, letter or TTY, and will alert you when an offender is released, transferred or has escaped incarceration. Best of all, the service is free to the public.
“The app is paid for through the states and provided as a public service,” Bucher says. “You don’t even need to be a victim to register. Victims’ family members and concerned people can register, too. It’s about keeping communities safe and informed. We get compliments all the time on how valuable people find VINE, giving them peace of mind knowing where their offenders are.”
Of course, just because someone is in jail doesn’t mean they can’t still harass or threaten you. They may even try and keep you from testifying in court. It’s called witness tampering, and you can read about it in “ Threatened Not to Testify.”
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