National database aids crime victims

The Victim Notification System allows victims and their families or guardians to be notified of each step in a case via letter, e-mail, fax or pager.

Margaret Kane Former Staff writer, CNET News
Margaret is a former news editor for CNET News, based in the Boston bureau.
Margaret Kane
The U.S. Justice Department has set up a new database system to keep crime victims updated on cases.

The Victim Notification System, launched Tuesday, is a joint project of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, all units of the Justice Department. GRC International, a subsidiary of AT&T, was awarded the contract to develop the system in July 2000.

The VNS allows victims and their families or guardians to be notified of each step in a case, including arrest, trial date and incarceration. Victims can be notified through letter, e-mail, fax or pager, and can call an 800 number to get updates.

"It used to be there was a lot of paper transfer of information as the responsibility of a case got transferred from one agency to the next. They had no link system between the three agencies," said Heidi Myers, project manager in the federal government sector at AT&T.

The system uses an Oracle database and allows caseworkers to enter data through a Web interface, she said. It handles information for more than 80,000 victims, including 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The victims of horrific federal crimes and the family members of these victims have a right to be fully informed," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement. "It is important that those who have suffered know as much as possible about the status of these cases."