The Drug Enforcement Administration, Victim Witness Assistance Program (DEA-VWAP) was implemented as a result of victims' rights laws which provide for fair and just treatment of crime victims. The Attorney General Guidelines for Victim Witness Assistance provides additional guidance for federal law enforcement agencies.
The DEA-VWAP is managed from the Office of Congressional & Public Affairs, Washington, D.C. DEA Headquarters VWAP staff provides the following: (1) victim witness training, guidance and case by case assistance to DEA domestic and international offices; (2) coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement (3) and collaboration with national, state and local victim organizations.
In the DEA Field Divisions, the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) is the responsible official for ensuring compliance of the VWAP.
There is a Victim Witness Coordinator (collateral duty) in each of the 21 Field Divisions; the Office of Training, Aviation Division and Special Operations Division. As appropriate, the Victim Witness Coordinator provides services and notification to crime victims identified in DEA investigations; works with prosecutors, victim advocates, social service components and/or other victim service providers. In addition, there are approximately 150 Victim Witness Coordinators (collateral duty) designated in the Field Division’s District, Resident and Post of Duty Offices who assist crime victims identified in DEA investigations, coordinate with local prosecutors, victim advocates, social service components and the Field Division Victim Witness Coordinator.
The DEA-VWAP exists to ensure victims of crime identified in DEA investigations receive the information and services as required by federal law and the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim Witness Assistance.
The Attorney General Guidelines for Victim Witness Assistance defines a crime victim a “person directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal offense or any offense in the District of Columbia (18 U.S.C. § 3771(e)) if the offense is charged in federal district court. If a victim is under 18 years of age, incompetent, incapacitated, or deceased, a family member or legal guardian of the victim, a representative of the victim’s estate, or any other person so appointed by the court may exercise the victim’s rights, but in no event shall the accused serve as a guardian or representative for this purpose. (18 U.S.C. § 3771(e)) A victim may be a corporation, company association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company. (1 U.S.C. § 1).”
Upon request, a crime victim may receive information specific to the investigation, such as when charges are filed, arrest, upcoming trial date or logistics. A crime victim may request information and/or referral for services according to a specific need. This referral may include, but not be limited to, counseling, medical assistance, emergency shelter, transportation, relocation, and/or information about State Crime Compensation.
State crime compensation programs exist in every state in the country, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Crime victim compensation programs administered by state governments promote the recovery of more than 100,000 victims every year, paying out close of $250 million annually.
Victims of most violent or personal crimes, including assault, rape, child abuse, and domestic violence, as well as family members of murder victims, are eligible. Property crime, such as theft and burglary, are generally not compensable by state compensation programs. Crime victim compensation programs pay for medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages and support, and funerals.
For more information, see the National Crime Victim Assistance Board (website).
Children growing up in drug environments may experience emotional, behavioral, and/or cognitive problems.
Drug endangered children may be exposed to toxic chemicals, weapons and hazardous living conditions.
Substance abuse is one of the top two problems exhibited by families in 81% of reported cases of child abuse and neglect. Children of substance abusing parents are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected. (www.casacolumbia.org)
Children who have been sexually abused are 3.8 times more likely to develop drug addiction; nearly 2/3 of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused as children. (www.childhelp.org)
Children are one of the most vulnerable identified and reported victims in drug related crime investigations. These child victims are often referred to as Drug Endangered Children (DEC).
The needs of drug endangered children can first be met by the development of a coordinated response. Law enforcement may be the first on scene to identify a drug endangered child, however, the identification can be facilitated by any of the professionals who may come in contact with these children in the course of responding to related or unrelated matters. (See Child Victim Timeline).
A drug endangered child (DEC) is a young person under the age of 18 who lives in or is exposed to an environment where drugs, including pharmaceuticals, are present for any number of reasons, including trafficking and manufacturing of these drugs. As a result of such exposure, children experience, or are at high risk of experiencing, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, harm or neglect as well as at risk of being forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or in exchange for money likely to be used to purchase drugs. (Definition provided by Deputy Attorney General Task Force on Drug Endangered Children, www.usdoj.gov).
A drug endangered child may:
Background of Drug Endangered Children Response:
The founder of the DEC response is Sue Webber Brown, a former Narcotics Detective and District Attorney Investigator, Butte County, California, and current Executive Director of the National Drug Endangered Child Training and Advocacy Center (NDEC-TAC). After determining that children in drug environments were not receiving the services so desperately needed, Sue created the response and then worked with Mike Ramsey, District Attorney, Butte County, California, to develop the first DEC protocol. Shortly thereafter, local DEC programs were created in communities all over the country, and in 2003 efforts were made to establish a national DEC program. Since that time, the movement to identify and aid drug endangered children has expanded in scope and impact to include partners on the federal, state, tribal and local levels recognizing the problem and implementing intervention strategies.
Crime victims’ rights laws apply equally to child victims. Law enforcement identifies and refers child victims to local Child Protective Services professionals, Child Advocacy Centers (CAC), Multidisciplinary Response Teams and/or other professionals who provide a coordinated response focused on the child. Some communities have a specific DEC team response.
The multidisciplinary approach involves local law enforcement, first responders, prosecutors, child protective services, medical and mental health professionals, and may include other professionals identified in the community such as code enforcement, public health, and more. A cooperative alliance is formed in the community where information is shared and there is case coordination. In some communities, a memorandum of understanding is initiated that supports the effort.
In having a coordinated DEC response in place, a child identified in a drug environment is provided immediate assistance. During evidence collection, photographs of the drugs and/or hazards they are exposed to or have access are taken from the child’s perspective. The report and photographs are given to the prosecutor for possible filing of charges of child endangerment, abuse or neglect.
For additional information, go to the DEA Museum Lecture Series, May 24, 2011, Drug Endangered Children Awareness Day, Also, see The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drug Endangered Children.
Under Title 18, U.S.C., Section 3771(a), a crime victim has the following rights:
A crime victim may at any time seek the advice of a private attorney concerning these rights at your own expense and discretion. A crime victim may file a complaint against any employee of the Department of Justice who violated or failed to provide the rights established under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004, 18 U.S.C. Section 3771. The Department of Justice has established the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman to receive and investigate complaints filed by crime victims against its employees, and has implemented Procedures to Promote Compliance with Crime Victims’ Rights Obligations, 28 C.F.R. Section 45.10.
of the Victims’ Rights;
of Justice, EOUSA,
RFK Main Justice
Building; 950 Pennsylvania,
Ave., N.W., Room
call 1-877-574-9302; Fax: 202-305-4937
Websites and Publications:
Just Think Twice (DEA teen website)
Get Smart About Drugs (DEA parent website)
DEA Victim Witness Assistance General Brochure (2011)
Crime Victims.gov (website)
Department of Justice - Victim Assistance Action Center
Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) (website)
Online Directory of Crime Victim Services (website)
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Victim Assistance (website)
International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (website)
National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards (website)
National Center for Victims of Crime (website)
or call 1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255); 1-800-211-7996 (TTY)
National Organization for Victim Assistance (website)
Victim Law (website)
Witness Justice (website)
Security on Campus, Inc. (website)
National Domestic Violence Hotline (website)
or call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233); 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
National Teen Dating Violence Hotline (website)
or call 1-866-331-9474; 1-866-331-8453 (TTY)
National Center on Elder Abuse, Administration on Aging (website)
or call 1-800-677-1116
THEFT & CYBERCRIMES:
Federal Trade Commission:
Deter, Detect, and Defend Against Identity Theft ( website)
Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline: Toll Free: 1-877-ID-THEFT
National Cyber Security Alliance (website)
RAPE & SEXUAL
An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection (website)
It Happened to Alexa Foundation (website)
Jane Doe No More (website)
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (website)
or call Toll Free: 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)
National Crime Victim Helpline, Stalking Resource Center (website):
or call Toll Free: 1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255); 1-800-211-7996 (TTY)
VICTIMS & DRUG
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (website)
or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
National Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (website)
Drug Endangered Children Training and Advocacy Center (DEC-TAC) (website)
National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (Alliances & Awareness) (website)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (website)
or call Toll Free: 1-800-843-5678
National Child Advocacy Center (website)
or call 256-533-KIDS (5437)
National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. (website)
or call Toll Free: 1-888-818-POMC
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway (website)
The White House, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drug Endangered Children (website)
contact the DEA Demand
Office of Congressional & Public Affairs, Victim Witness Assistance Program
Toll free: 1-866-254-5970 Email: VWAP.DEA@usdoj.gov