More people using RI's Crime Victim Compensation Program

(WPRI) -- She wears the necklace every day. The Pegasus charm is a play on words, a combination of her name Peggy, and "sis" for sister. It's one of Peggy's prized possessions, a reminder of her brother, Michael Parrish, who was killed in 2012.

"It hasn't been the same since," Peggy said. "It has not been the same."

Parrish died after being run over twice during an argument outside of his home in West Warwick. Peggy saw the entire horrifying scene unfold.

"The kid floored it backwards," Peggy recalled. "My brother is backpedaling as fast as he can and the kid kept going faster, and the next thing you know my brother was down and being dragged."

In the immediate aftermath of her brother's death, Peggy says she needed counseling and medication. She says she also needed a new home because the apartment she had shared with her brother was no longer affordable.

"We stayed there for as long as we could," Peggy said. "Finally we had to leave."

The Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Program came to her rescue.

"They jumped right in and helped me," Peggy told Target 12.

The program is primarily funded through court fees and federal grants. It provides up to $25,000 in reimbursement to Rhode Islanders for expenses related to violent crime. The funds are administered through the State Treasurer's Office.

"When we think about Rhode Islanders who are victims, whether it's a rape or an assault or an armed robbery, we think about the physical trauma that they experience," explained General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "There's also a lot of financial trauma that can be associated with a violent act."

The program provides payments for a host of expenses, including medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance, funeral expenses, crime scene cleaning, loss of earnings, and relocation reimbursements. Because of a 2015 legislative update, maximum relocation reimbursements increased from $2,500 to $5,000.

"Five thousand dollars can go a long way," said Magaziner. "And what we've seen since this bill was passed in the spring, is that the number of claims to the program for relocation have gone up dramatically."

Target 12 learned there were 163 relocation claims in 2016, totaling more than $403,000, compared to 111 claims in 2015, totaling about $178,000. That's a 47% spike.

"That's being driven largely by victims of domestic violence," Magaziner said. "Domestic violence is not new, but what is new is that with the larger reimbursement that's available, there are more people taking advantage of this program and getting out of relationships that are unhealthy."

The $5,000 relocation reimbursements can cover expenses for hotel rooms, rent for apartments, and even security deposits.

"If you're in an abusive relationship where you are financially dependent on your abuser and you are going to make that terrifying leap to get out of that situation, you need to know that you can live independently and provide for yourself for more than just days or even a couple of weeks," Magaziner said.

Total payments from the fund are also up, from $1,323,749 in 2015 to $1,422,953 in 2016. To be eligible for the Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Program, victims of violent crimes must file a police report within 10 days of the alleged crime and file a compensation claim within three years.

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