By LAUREN GENTILE
Capital News Service
LANSING – The newest member of the Crime Victim Services Commission is ready to help the commission continue to serve victims.
Brian Peppler, the Chippewa County prosecutor, is replacing Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy.
The commission oversees compensation to victims. In 2010-11, the program paid $5 million directly to cover medical bills, lost earnings and support, burial payments and counseling.
“We will continue to give these awards and help victims get the money they need,” Peppler said. “I feel that I am ready to help making sure money is available for compensation. We help budget the money we give out and plan to get restitution (from convicted defendants) once cases are closed.”
The commission also awards grants to local government and nonprofit agencies, including county prosecutors, to fund services that directly benefit victims. The money comes from the federal government.
“This commission helps us be able to have a local advocate in our office,” said Ronald Schafer, immediate past president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. “This is something we don’t necessarily have money for in our budget, but since we get the grant money we are good.”
Shafer is the Ionia County prosecutor.
Wayne State University criminal justice Professor Eric Lambert said the commission is doing well, but could improve its visibility.
“All in all the commission does what it is supposed to do, but no one really knows about their services,” he said. “Yes, they have a website, but people do not know it’s available and all the benefits they have.”
Lambert said to fix that problem, the commission should do more public outreach and train advocacy groups and even police officers to know more about the services it offers.
“If they inform people, then more can use the services which will in turn possibly help them get more funding for the future. They are like a hidden resource.”
Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency Associate Director Robert Burroughs said that, overall, the commission does a good job.
“They support the needs of each victim and support them after they are through the criminal justice system,” he said. “They support the needs of the victims and focus on giving them as much voice as possible.”
Peppler is one of five commissioners. He said he is unsure of his goals, but intends on making a difference.
“Honestly, I want to make sure crime victims around the state are heard and taken care of to the best of our abilities,” he said.
Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him in October.
Schafer said, the commission is lucky to have Peppler. “He knows what is important to the people and how to keep the commission moving forward.”
Schafer said he sees Peppler being a force to be reckoned with. “He knows how to make victims feel whole through all the work he has done in the criminal justice system.”
Worthy said she will miss serving on the commission, but plans to still advocate for victims.
“Even though my time is up, I am sure Peppler will pick up where we left off,” she said.
By LAUREN GENTILE