The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is launching new technology aiming to lower the number of time victims wait to hear from prosecutors.
It comes after hundreds of domestic violence cases were found to have stacked up in a backlog at the DA’s office earlier this year, with many victims associated with the cases waiting months to hear from prosecutors.
In an interview, District Attorney Raul Torrez admitted it was a problem. “We obviously have to move faster,” said Torrez in February.
The DA’s office has now launched an automated contact system and a new website to better get in touch with victims.
In the past, some victims had waited between two and five months to hear from the DA.
Under the new system, the DA’s Office is able to reach out to some victims within minutes of their case being filed in a police report. “What we don’t want victims to think is that they have no assistance, they’re on their own,” said Kyle Hartsock, the special-agent-in-charge for DA Torrez’s Crime Strategies Unit.
The new system works by automatically taking a victim’s phone number from the police report, then sending a text message to their phone with a link to a new “Domestic Violence Early Contact” website.
“If you click on this link, you can see more resources about how we can help you,” said Hartsock, speaking of the new website.
Online, the new site lets victims sign up for text messaging with a prosecutor, set a phone call or an in-person appointment where they can speak to victim advocates about their case. Appointments can be made within days or sometimes hours.
“It’s proven nationwide, the quicker you can contact the victim of a crime, especially domestic violence, the more effective and the more participatory they’ll be in the case,” said Hartsock.
The system just launched in March. In the last month, the DA’s Office has been able to contact more than 400 victims and set up more than 30 meetings between victims and prosecutors.