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Committee OKs help for victims

ALPENA — The Alpena County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee voted to recommend the full board allow a transfer of money from the prosecutor’s budget to the Crime Vicitms Fund to ensure hours are not cut in hours for the court’s part-time crime victim’s advocate.

If the cards fall as hoped, in the next year or so, another grant could increase the position to full time, which would be huge for victims of domestic assault and criminal sexual conduct in the area, officials said.

County Prosecutor Ed Black explained to the committee on Wednesday that, normally, the annual Crime Victims Rights Grant pays for the full amount of the employee, including any wage increases. He said that was not the case this year and $2,000 was needed to make up the difference so the advocate could stay on for 20 hours per week.

Black requested that the money be taken from his overtime budget. The committee agreed with him and the matter will be voted on for final approval at the full board meeting on Tuesday.

Black also informed the commissioners that his office, along with eight other counties, are trying to acquire a $60,000 Crime Victims Rights Navigator Program grant, which would allow the advocate to move from part-time to full-time. He said many victims need assistance navigating the judicial system and acquiring help such as financial assistance.

“Most people don’t understand the criminal justice system, and even those who think they do may actually not,” Black said. “This is a point person for the survivor or victim to be able to ask questions and to know that there is somebody who will be there to hold their hand in a more empathetic manner than the prosecutor can when they are handling a case.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.