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Crime Victims Can Keep Track of Offenders with “IowaVINE”

The new victim information and notification system tracks the custody status of offenders. Victims can obtain information 24 hours per day, 365 days per year -- and can ask to be notified immediately if an offender’s custody status changes.

Des Moines.  Attorney General Tom Miller today unveiled a rapidly-growing “IowaVINE” system – a victim information and notification system for crime victims that tracks the custody status of criminals who have been arrested or convicted.

“IowaVINE is a powerful new tool providing information, notification, and peace of mind for crime victims. It’s a superb new service to support victims of violent crime,” Miller said.

“Crime victims can call in or log on any time, any day, for up-to-date information on an offender’s status,” he said. “Just call 888-7-IAVINE, or go to www.vinelink.com. It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s free, and it’s reassuring for victims,” Miller said. (Go to: IowaVine brochure.)

Victims also can register for virtually immediate notification when an offender’s custody status changes, such as release, escape, transfer, or death. Persons may register for e-mail notification by going to www.vinelink.com. Persons may register for telephone notification by going to the web site or calling 888-7-IAVINE. In a telephone notification, IowaVINE will continue calling for up to 48 hours or until the person enters a PIN code to confirm receiving the notification. (Go to: example of IowaVINE notification call.)

Miller said 23 Iowa counties now are on the IowaVINE system, which started powering up late last year, and more counties and their jails come “on board” every month [Update as of 2-1-08: The Iowa Dept. of Corrections now is on IowaVINE. See news release dated 2-1-08.]. The Iowa Department of Corrections is expected to join IowaVINE later this year, as are many more counties. Miller said the 23 counties now on the system amount to 58% of Iowans having access to IowaVINE in their county, since many of Iowa’s larger counties are up on the system.

“The system already has had over 18,000 ‘hits’ by Iowans checking IowaVINE for the status of offenders, and 500 Iowans have registered for notification,” he said. “We are moving quickly to a very effective statewide system.”

The 23 counties now on IowaVINE (in order of joining) are: Story (12/06), Scott (12/06), Grundy (1/07), Boone (1/07), Pottawattamie (1/07), Warren (2/07), Hamilton (2/07), Johnson (2/07), Polk (2/07), Sioux (2/07), Cherokee (3/07), Muscatine (3/07), Jasper (3/07), Appanoose (3/07), Woodbury (4/07), Clay (4/07), Carroll (4/07), Bremer (4/07), Black Hawk (5/07), Lyon (5/07), Dubuque (5/07), Webster (6/07), and Buena Vista (6/07).

Although state prisons and other facilities operated by the Iowa Dept. of Corrections are not yet available on the automated IowaVine system, persons can check on the status of DOC-incarcerated offenders by going to the Corrections website at www.doc.state.ia.us.

Miller announced the IowaVINE system Wednesday at a news conference at his office. He was joined by a violent-crime victim, Rhonda, of Des Moines. Mike Davis, founder and president of Appriss, the Louisville, KY-based company that is providing the automated system used by IowaVINE and other states, was unable to attend because of flight delays..

Appriss provides trained live telephone operators at all times, in addition to the automated telephone and on-line information and notification service. Davis created the VINE system about a dozen years ago, after a woman was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in Kentucky. The killer had been in jail for sexually assaulting the woman, and she was assured by the sheriff that she would be notified if the offender left custody. But the offender posted bail, silently stalked her for several days, and shot her at her car outside her workplace on her 21st birthday. She was never notified of his release.

Rhonda, the violent-crime victim, explained why it is so important to crime victims to be able to determine the custody status of an offender. She said it is a matter of safety – especially to learn if an offender is released or escapes and may pose an immediate danger. She added: “I need this reassurance for myself and my children and family. This is a quick, efficient way of feeling safe, secure, and having some peace of mind.”

IowaVINE is a service of the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Attorney General’s Office. The system is being established under a $1.25 million grant from the Office for Justice Programs of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

“IowaVINE is another huge step forward for Iowa victims of violent crime,” Miller said. “I think it is the most important development since the Crime Victim Compensation Program was started almost 25 years ago. Iowa law already gives victims legal rights to information and notification, but now IowaVINE goes a very long way to make those rights a reality.”

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More questions and answers about IowaVINE:

Go to: IowaVINE brochure.

What if I believe I am at risk from an offender?

  • Do not depend solely on IowaVINE for protection from the offender. If you feel you may be at risk, contact your local law enforcement agency to report concerns, or your local crime victim service program for support and to create a safety plan.

What does IowaVINE do?

  • IowaVINE provides INFORMATION about an inmate or offender's apprehension, transfer, release, escape, or death.

  • IowaVINE also provides AUTOMATIC NOTIFICATION to crime victims (or other interested parties) about changes in an offender's custody status.

How can I get INFORMATION from IowaVINE?

  • Go to www.vinelink.com and get custody status and location information on-line about the inmate or offender. (It’s a simple as entering the offender’s name.) Or, . . . . .

  • Call IowaVINE at 888-7-IAVINE (888-742-8463) to receive information through an automated information system. You also can press zero to speak with a trained IowaVINE operator at any time.

How can I get NOTIFICATION from IowaVINE?

  • To register your telephone number for notification, either call IowaVINE at 888-7-IAVINE, or go to www.vinelink.com. (“Search” for the offender, then click on “details.”) To register your e-mail address, you must go to www.vinelink.com.

  • You may register to receive notification at multiple phone numbers, including cell phones.

  • You will choose a personal identification number (4-digit PIN code) for telephone notification
  • When IowaVINE calls your phone number(s), you will enter your PIN code to confirm that you received the notification. IowaVINE will continue calling until you enter your PIN code (up to 48 hours.) If an answering machine answers, IowaVINE will leave a message and continue calling until you enter your PIN code or 48 hours passes.

Other IowaVINE facts:

  • IowaVINE is anonymous. An offender will not know if you are registered with IowaVINE or if you seek information about an offender.

  • Trained IowaVINE operators are available at all times – 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Assistance is available in more than 200 languages.

  • If your phone number or e-mail address changes, you will need to re-register with IowaVINE.

What if an offender is not found on the IowaVINE system?

  • For offenders in a county jail that is not yet on the IowaVINE system, call the county jail. (It is hoped that almost all Iowa counties will be linked to IowaVINE in 2007.)

  • Federal inmates are not on the VINE system. Go to the Federal Victim Notification System (VNS) Call Center at 1-866-365-4968 (1-866-DOJ-4YOU), or access the VNS Internet site at www.notify.usdoj.gov.

What are some other sources of information about a criminal case or offender?

  • For information about a criminal investigation, contact the investigating law enforcement agency.

  • For information about a criminal prosecution, and to register for additional notification rights, contact the case prosecutor or the County Attorney's Office.

What are other sources of crime-victim information and support?

  • Crime Victim Compensation Program, Iowa Attorney General’s Office, 515-281-5044 or 800-373-5044.

  • Iowa Domestic Abuse Hotline, 800-942-0333.

  • Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline, 800-284-7821.