RD231 - Virginia State Crime Commission 2019 Annual Report
The Crime Commission engaged in a variety of studies and projects throughout 2019. Crime Commission staff focused efforts on examining mass killings and gun violence as a result of legislation referred to the Crime Commission during the July 2019 Special Session of the General Assembly. In August, the Crime Commission held a two-day public meeting on mass killings and gun violence. On the first day of the meeting, members heard presentations from federal agencies, state agencies, and prominent researchers, and the second day consisted of testimony from bill patrons, organizations, interest groups, and members of the general public. The Crime Commission published its Report on Mass Killings and Gun Violence in November.
Staff also continued work on several additional large-scale projects and studies, including the Virginia Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program and Notification Project, the Virginia Pre-Trial Data Project, sex trafficking, and fingerprinting of defendants.
Staff presented on the completion of the Virginia Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program and Notification Project at the Crime Commission meeting in October. This Project was a unique and unprecedented opportunity to address potentially wrongful convictions related to archived case files (1973 to 1988) at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. After working on this Project for over a decade, hundreds of individuals who had been convicted of a criminal offense between 1973 and 1988 were notified that biological evidence believed to be suitable for DNA testing existed in the archived case file relating to their conviction. Ultimately, 13 wrongfully convicted individuals were exonerated as a result of all efforts stemming from this Project. Additionally, the Project led to at least 16 “hits" of offender DNA profiles for persons who were not originally named in the DFS archived case file.
Crime Commission members also heard presentations on two additional topics at the October meeting: sex trafficking and statewide data systems integration. Several agencies provided updates on the progress of Crime Commission recommendations from last year to address sex trafficking, as well as their plans for the upcoming year. The Chief Data Officer for the Commonwealth also delivered a report on the data governance project being implemented by the newly created Data Sharing and Analytics Advisory Committee.(*1)
In December, the Crime Commission published its report on the Virginia PreTrial Data Project: Preliminary Statewide Findings. As part of the Virginia PreTrial Data Project, a cohort of adult defendants charged with a criminal offense during a one-month period (October 2017) was identified and tracked during the pre-trial period until final case disposition or December 31, 2018, whichever came first. Two specific outcomes were tracked in order to evaluate the effectiveness of various pre-trial release mechanisms: public safety and court appearance. A preliminary statewide descriptive analysis was conducted on the defendants in the cohort who were released on bond (personal recognizance, unsecured, and secured) during the pre-trial period. This preliminary analysis included whether the defendant was placed on pretrial services agency (PSA) supervision as a condition of bond and whether the criminal charges from the October 2017 contact event were heard in a locality served by a PSA during the October 2017 timeframe. Ultimately, when this Project is complete, the dataset will provide a baseline of pre-trial measures across the Commonwealth and can help inform policy decisions throughout the pre-trial process.
Crime Commission members unanimously endorsed legislation related to sex trafficking and fingerprinting of defendants for introduction during the Regular Session of the 2020 General Assembly. Ultimately, all of the legislation endorsed by the Crime Commission was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. The legislation accomplished numerous measures, including:
• expanding the scope of the current assessment performed by local departments of social services from sex trafficking to human trafficking;(*2)
• amending the definition of prostitution to include acts of sexual touching;(*3)
• requiring that fingerprints be taken and reports be submitted to the Central Criminal Records Exchange in the same manner for DUI-related offenses charged via summons pursuant to Virginia Code § 19.2-73(B) as for all other summonses issued pursuant to Virginia Code § 19.2-74;(*4) and,
• authorizing law enforcement agencies, when directed by a court order, to take fingerprints of defendants who were found in contempt or in violation of the terms or conditions of a suspended sentence or probation for a felony offense.(*5)
The Executive Director of the Crime Commission continued to serve as a member of the Forensic Science Board,(*6) the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission,(*7) and the Advisory Committee on Sexual and Domestic Violence,(*8) as designee for the Chair of the Crime Commission.
Additional information about the Crime Commission is available on the agency website at http://vscc.virginia.gov.