Northeast nonprofit helps victims and crime witnesses

A Northeast-based nonprofit can provide financial help to crime victims, the organization’s executive director last week told 15th Police District Advisory Council members.

Jerry Bolzak said Northeast Victim Service on the 2400 block of Cottman Avenue has been helping victims and crime witnesses since 1992.

“We collaborate with the District Attorney’s office,” Bolzak said.

Not only does the organization help them through their dealings with the criminal-justice system, he said, it provides federal funds to cover victims’ losses.

“Not everyone is eligible,” he said, but added that Northeast Victim Service paid out $400,000 to victims last year.

“This is a federal compensation program. … All of it is paid through criminal fines,” he said, “not tax money.”

He explained that the federal government collects fines from criminals, and that it is those funds that the service gets to crime victims.

Many people who are eligible for this financial help don’t know about it, don’t apply for it or ignore notifications that they might be eligible, he said.

Bolzak said Northeast Victim Service monitors police reports. Within a week of reporting a crime, victims should get letters from the police informing them of the possibility they could be eligible for financial and other help. Then, they should hear from the service about a week later.

Sometimes, the letters are ignored or discarded, he said.

“People trash them,” he said.

Other than the financial help, Bolzak said, the organization aids victims and witnesses with counseling and information about what happens in the courts.

“It’s a big help to us,” said Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson.

Gilson told members that “Mayfair Tire Slasher” David Toledo was found guilty of puncturing many of his neighbors’ car tires, but might not be sentenced to any jail time.

That verdict came in early February after a weeklong trial, Gilson said.

The 46-year-old Toledo, who is free on bail, had been charged with vandalizing car tires for four months in early 2012 around Cottman and Frankford avenues. He was found guilty of 15 charges and acquitted of 44 other charges.

“We had no eyewitnesses,” Gilson said, adding the case was built on circumstantial evidence. “The jury convicted him of the crimes we had the best evidence of.”

He said the DA’s office is requesting jail time, Gilson said, but he said he doubted Toledo will be sent to prison when he is sentenced March 24.

“Nonviolent criminals generally don’t get sent to jail,” he said.

In other news:

• Community Relations Officer Keisha Jacobs told members that violent crimes in the 15th are down 41 percent so far this year. Property crimes like burglary dipped 10 percent, she said, and shootings are down 3 percent.

• PDAC members will elect their officers during their March 31 session at 7 p.m. at the Mayfair Community Center, 2990 St. Vincent St.

• Frank Kruzinski, PDAC vice president and representative of the Bridesburg Town Watch, told members he had missed several meetings over the past year to attend to some personal issues. He said he had asked for and received permission for a leave of absence.

• State Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D-2nd dist.) stopped by the Feb. 24 meeting. She told members she has served for 20 years and is up for re-election this year. She said she opposed Gov. Tom Corbett’s attempts to sell Pennsylvania’s state store system and the state lottery. Both of the governor’s efforts have been unsuccessful so far, she said, but she expects Corbett to try again.

Advisory council membership is not open to the general public. Those who attend PDAC meetings represent other community organizations like Town Watches or civic associations as well as schools, churches, hospitals and businesses. Elected officials also attend or send representatives. ••