By Governor Dave Heineman
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Ten years ago this week, a new service launched in Nebraska aimed at providing peace of mind for the victims of violent crime. Launched in 1999, VINE, which stands for Victim Information and Notification Everyday, alerts Nebraskans to changes in an offender's custody status 24 hours a day, via telephone or email.
Coordinated by the Nebraska Crime Commission, VINE provides the around-the-clock status of offenders held in a Nebraska Department of Correctional Services facility and county jails throughout the state. The service is free, anonymous and available to crime victims and any concerned citizen.
In the aftermath of a crime, knowing the offender's whereabouts can be a valuable way to reassure victims as part of their recovery. VINE helps empower victims by giving them important safety information in a fast and convenient way.
During the past decade, use of this technology-based application has been widely adopted across the country. When Nebraska's VINE program was implemented in 1999, less than 10 states offered this automated service. Today at least 2,300 communities in 46 states offer victim notification services.
Callers to the VINE hotline can talk with operators available 24 hours a day to help new users register, locate an offender or access local victim services. Updates are provided in English and Spanish, with a recent addition of Vietnamese. The menu of VINE's online and electronic services has expanded as well.
Users can register to receive status updates via email. In addition to registering to be notified in the event of an offender's release, death, transfer, escape and return to custody after an escape, more specific information is available on Nebraska inmates. It ranges from a pardon or commutation of a sentence, to temporary releases such as furloughs, work release or volunteering with a community program, cancellation of scheduled release, 30-day advance notice of an upcoming parole hearing and any cancellations, as well as the results of parole hearings.
In 2008, there were 4,773 registration requests and an update on inmate status was requested more than 23,000 times in Nebraska. These are requests that otherwise would have gone to jails and county attorneys across the state.
VINE is one example of the many ways state government can provide a valuable service that benefits citizens, while also ensuring better efficiency for our partners at the local and county level.
Victims and other concerned citizens can access the service by calling toll free to (877) 634-8463, or by logging onto the VINE website, available at www.vinelink.com and entering the offender's name or identification number.
Each of the thousands of notifications made each year is a person who feels safer because they know the status of a perpetrator. Knowledge is power, and for the victims of crime in Nebraska it provides security and peace of mind.
I want to thank the Nebraska Crime Commission and our many partners in law enforcement and criminal justice systems who are part of the coalition of agencies supporting this worthwhile program.