County salutes Punxsy PD for dedicated, prompt work for victims’ program

PUNXSUTAWNEY — This week, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office and Jefferson County Victim Services saluted Punxsutawney Borough Police for its hard work and effort in working with the Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP).

“There are 1,200 borough police departments in Pennsylvania, and the Punxsutawney Borough Police was one of the 256 departments that consistently returned its reports back in 15 days or less,” said Michelle Fusco, county victim services coordinator.

VCAP helps with bill payment, relocation, stolen cash benefits, mileage, loss of earnings, funeral expenses and more, she said.

Fusco said it is a program that pays when all other options are exhausted.

To qualify, the crime must be reported in a timely manner, and the victim cannot be involved in illegal activity that may have caused the crime, Fusco said. This money does not have to be paid back by the victim, but it is ordered to be paid back by the offender, if known, when he or she is sentenced.

She said all offenders — adult and juvenile — are ordered to pay a fee to the program, which does not come from taxpayer dollars.

“With the Punxsutawney Police Department promptly turning in its reports to VCAP, it helps VCAP assist the victim,” she said. “The great thing with VCAP is that once a claim is opened, it can be used in the future if needed.

“It’s wonderful to have VCAP,” Fusco added. “So far this year, I have submitted 14 claims, and they work hard to process the claims as quickly as possible.”

Fusco said this recognition coincides with National Crime Victims’ Week, now through Saturday, with this year’s theme, “Extending the Vision-Reaching Every Victim.”

“It calls on us to expand the vision that inspired the movement and celebrates the progress achieved to date,” she said. “It captures the spirit needed to realize our common goal of reaching every crime victim in need of hope and help, one victim at a time.”

Punxsutawney Borough Police Chief Tom Fedigan said that the department’s role in this process is very small.

“Our department provides all of the information that is available to us to Michelle,” he said. “Michelle does 99 percent of the work for the victims. We assist her to obtain the compensation that they need.”

Fedigan said Fusco should be commended for all of her hard work.

Fusco presented the department with a specially-baked cake by Honey Dawn Dusch, from the district attorney’s office.