RD51 - Virginia State Crime Commission 2014 Interim Executive Summary of Activities

    Executive Summary:
    Established in 1966, the Virginia State Crime Commission (“Commission”) is a legislative agency authorized by the Code of Virginia § 30-156 et seq. to study, report, and make recommendations on all areas of public safety and protection. The Commission is a criminal justice agency as defined in the Code of Virginia § 9.1-101.

    The Commission consists of thirteen members - nine legislative members, three non-legislative citizen members, and one state official, as follows: six members of the House of Delegates appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates in accordance with the principles of proportional representation contained in the Rules of the House of Delegates; three members of the Senate appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules; three non-legislative citizen members appointed by the Governor; and the Attorney General or his designee.

    Throughout 2014, the Commission held four Commission meetings: September 23, October 21, November 10, and December 2. During the 2014 General Assembly Session, a total of three mandated studies, five bill referrals, and three letter requests were sent to the Commission and approved for review. The Commission also decided to continue its comprehensive study on illegal cigarette trafficking. Staff was also requested to assist in the implementation of statutorily created child abuse multi-disciplinary teams, which was passed as part of the Crime Commission’s legislative package during the 2014 Session of the General Assembly. The Commission continues to be involved in the Forensic Science Board’s DNA Notification Project.

    The Commission was mandated by Senate Joint Resolution 24 to study the issue of expungement of juvenile records. Specifically, staff was mandated to review all laws related to confidentiality and retention of juvenile court records, report on at what time and by whom juvenile record information can be accessed, determine whether existing confidentiality and destruction of records laws are being complied with, examine the impact on youthful offenders of having a juvenile record, and make recommendations regarding improvements in the laws that would assist juvenile offenders while allowing law enforcement to maintain the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

    The Commission was also mandated by Senate Joint Resolution 64 and House Joint Resolution 62 to study the issue of missing persons. Both resolutions, which are identical, direct focus upon the current state of readiness of Virginia’s law enforcement and search and rescue efforts for rapid and well-coordinated deployment in all missing, endangered, and abducted person cases. Specifically, staff was mandated to study what needs to be done in order to get increased, large-scale rapid search and rescue coordination efforts, immediate notification to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) when a person is determined to be endangered or abducted, additional resources and staffing needs for VDEM and law enforcement, cross-training between command staff and VDEM’s Search and Rescue Program, and support services for families of missing persons and to implement other recommendations the Crime Commission deems necessary. Staff also examined cases in which an endangered or abducted person/child resulted in the rescue or recovery of the missing person and law enforcement response. A final report will be published as a 2015 House and Senate Document.

    The Commission was mandated by House Bill 885 to study Sexual and Domestic Violence Victim Service Agency Funding. A work group was created to examine an efficient and comprehensive streamlining of current federal and state sexual and domestic violence victim service agency funding, including general fund, non-general fund, and special fund monies. The work group convened three times during the summer and was comprised of 31 representatives with specific knowledge of agency funding. A final report will be published as a 2015 House Document.

    Throughout the year, staff researched several other issues as a result of bill referrals and study requests to the Commission during the 2014 Session of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 353 dealt with criminal history record checks and barrier crimes. Staff also examined human trafficking, juvenile prostitution and the reporting of suspected cases of child human trafficking as a result of Senate Bill 373 and House Bill 486 being referred to the Commission for study. House Bill 344 sought to add penalties to impersonating another while engaged in the harassment of a third person, using a computer. House Bill 707 included a review of digital impersonation penalties and how such a statute should best be drafted. Staff also conducted a brief review of sexting and existing child pornography laws. Presentations on special conservators of the peace and private police departments were provided by the Secretary of Public Safety, the Department of Criminal Justice Services, and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, requesting members to take action regarding several issues. Details regarding these studies will be made available as attachments to this document and in the Commission’s 2014 Annual Report. Detailed study presentations can be found on the Commission’s website at: http://vscc.virginia.gov.

    As a result of these studies, a number of legislative proposals were endorsed by the Crime Commission and will be presented for consideration during the 2015 Session of the General Assembly. The Commission’s legislative package includes bills dealing with sexual and domestic violence funding, illegal cigarette trafficking, digital impersonation and harassment, human trafficking, juvenile records, missing persons/search and rescue, special conservators of the peace, private police departments, and the reproduction of child pornography.

    In addition to these studies, the Commission’s Executive Director serves as a member of the Forensic Science Board pursuant to the Code of Virginia § 9.1-1109(A)(7). The Executive Director also acts as the Chair of the DNA Notification Subcommittee, which is charged with the oversight of notification to convicted persons that DNA evidence that may be suitable for testing exists within old Department of Forensic Science case files.

    In accordance with the Code of Virginia § 19.2-163.02, the Commission’s Executive Director also serves on the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, and specifically as a member of the Budget Committee and the Personnel and Training Committee.