Crime Victim Section Chief Amy O’Grady gives customer service top billing.
On her section’s priorities
We provide certain core services — grants, victim compensation, and education and training programs — and we want to make sure those programs aren’t working in silos. For example, our compensation unit noticed an increased number of claims for a particular type of crime. So we asked our grants unit to look into whether we’re funding programs to assist with that issue, and we asked our education unit to determine if there are training opportunities for law enforcement and other victim services providers. We’re also looking at vulnerable populations. The attorney general has tasked our section with looking at the services we’re funding and determining if anyone is underserved — based on the crime they’ve experienced or their geographic location. We want to do all we can to ensure every victim of crime has access to what they need to make them whole again.
On the importance of customer service
We don’t hang up the phone without at least directing the caller to a resource. If we have the ability to assist them through our core services here, we certainly do so. But if for some reason we can’t get those services to them, we need to explain that to them with sincerity and really talk with them about their other options. We need to take on their problems as though they are our problems. Every person who works here understands that whether you’ve lost your love one or you’ve had your purse snatched, each situation is important to the person on the other end of that phone. Whatever issue someone calls in with, it’s a priority.
On Ohio’s crime victim compensation program
Unfortunately, not enough people know about the compensation program, and we want everyone in Ohio to know about our services. That money is so important to crime victims. It may get them food on the table or electricity for the next month. It could help them get counseling services that they so desperately need. And you might think, “It’s only money,” but that money can give them peace of mind so they can move forward. Some people who file claims are represented by attorneys and some file applications on their own. We want to make sure that we are doing all we can for that individual, regardless of whether they have representation.
On taking a proactive approach
We’re doing a lot more outreach. For instance, when the school shooting occurred in Chardon earlier this year, instead of waiting for the applications to come to us, we called victim advocates and sent a team there to answer questions and help victims fill out compensation applications. We’ve been back a couple of times since to talk with teachers and staff to make sure they understand the compensation program. I told people there, ‘We’re not here to take over or overstep when it comes to what you need to do for the healing process. We want to help.’
On the role victim advocates play
It’s tremendous. I know it’s extremely tough, for instance, to run a domestic violence shelter and to watch someone leave and hope that they’re OK. You have to take solace in the fact that for one night — or perhaps several nights — that victim is going to be protected and not be assaulted by the offender. She’ll have a place to sleep and eat, and she’ll know that her kids are safe. It’s got to be so difficult to wonder whether she’s going to be OK if she goes. We’re just so thankful victim advocates are there. I want them to view us as a resource.
On education and training the section provides
We currently offer instruction on a variety of issues, such as response to sexual assault victims, domestic violence, and elder abuse. We consistently think about priority programs and what assistance we can give to victim service providers regionally.
On the Two Days in May Conference on Victim Assistance
That is really our signature event, and we get great feedback. It’s multidisciplinary, so we have victim advocates, prosecutors, and law enforcement attend. It’s an opportunity for them to learn, hear great speakers and network. The people who we bring in for workshops have been tremendous. Two Days in May is our showcase, but I hope that when all is said and done, everybody is going to understand what a resource the Crime Victim Section is that every day will be like Two Days in May.
On what’s ahead
We are going to embark on a study to examine victim services over the next few months with existing partners such as the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, the Ohio Victim Witness Association, and the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Our goal is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to assist crime victims, distribute grant funds to the best of our ability, and if possible look at some prevention measures through training. The survey will go out to a large number of providers to determine the types of services they assist with, and we’ll use that data to be better informed when we’re making decisions about funding.
On what past positions prepared her for this one
When I was an assistant public defender for Franklin County, my boss taught me that you helped anybody who walked in the door. And if you didn’t, there better be a good reason why. I love that philosophy. We don’t turn anybody away. And if they need to go somewhere else, we help them get there. The other job that prepared me for this was working for Bob Fiatal at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. He was such a tremendous influence on me in the year I was there. Bob is so positive and energetic. I saw every day how his enthusiastic leadership motivated me and the rest of the staff to perform at our best.
The Amy O’Grady File
Hometown: Sebring, Ohio
Past positions: Deputy director of professional standards for Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, 2011–2012; assistant attorney general in the Crime Victim Section, 2005–2011; law clerk for Franklin County Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Sadler, 2004–2005; staff attorney for Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John F. Bender, 2003–2004; assistant public defender with the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office, 2000–2003.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Kent State University and law degree from Capital University.
On what has her enthused: I love the fact that we have the ability to really effect change when it comes to victims. We have so many passionate people who work here, and we have an opportunity to be a positive influence in people’s lives.
Family: Husband, Jim, a Franklin County Municipal Court judge, and a 4-year-old daughter
What she does for fun: “Play with my daughter, for one. She’s pretty fun!” Also high on the list are hanging out with her husband and listening to classic rock and rap music.