DOJ Recognizes Environmental Crime Victim Assistance Team With Federal Service Award

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The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), presented the Federal Service Award to the Environmental Crime Victim Assistance Team, a collaboration of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training and the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the Department of Justice. This award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of federal agency personnel who lead initiatives and make contributions that impact victims of federal, tribal, and military crimes, or that promote victims’ rights and services nationally and international.

“Acts that degrade the environment take a heavy toll on our planet, but we often forget that individual victims also pay a high price and are often left to suffer in silence,” said Amy L. Solomon, Deputy Attorney Senior Deputy General of OJP. “Those who commit these crimes cause enormous damage that often goes unnoticed until injury and illness reach the point of personal crisis. The vigilance and resourcefulness of this team of dedicated professionals is worthy of our highest esteem. and our deepest gratitude.

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Created in 2017, the Environmental Crime Victim Assistance Team identifies and supports victims of environmental injustice. Injuries from environmental crimes, such as widespread pollution and exposure to carcinogens, may not show up for years after the crime, and even then it is difficult to distinguish between external causes and underlying medical conditions. Until the program’s inception, there were no national protocols or dedicated federal resources to ensure that victims of environmental crimes were identified, notified, and treated consistently across the country.

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The program has created a decision tree to identify victims, a victim impact statement template tailored to environmental crimes, an investigation and prosecution checklist to ensure victims are accounted for, and a model language of indictment and jury instructions for certain offenses of retaliation to victims and witnesses. The team also improves outreach to victims in overburdened communities and ensures that investigations are structured to seek remedies that ensure adequate protection for these communities. Achievements of the program include the establishment of a National Victim-Witness Coordinator position at the Environmental Protection Agency, the hiring of a Victim-Witness Coordinator for the Environmental Crimes Section of the ENRD, the launch of public web pages to raise awareness among victims of environmental crimes and the development of national training.

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“This outstanding team of advocates and advocates exemplifies compassion in the pursuit of often elusive justice, giving hope to those whose communities have borne the brunt of reckless and criminal environmental practices,” said Kristina Rose, Director of OVC. “We owe these professionals a huge debt of gratitude.”

Learn more about this year’s National Awards for Services to Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice

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