Lawmakers consider bill to help crime victims after KXAN Investigation

FILE - Cash (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Cash (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A KXAN Investigation is closer to changing Texas law to help crime victims. That proposed legislation would make it easier for crime victims to get what’s called restitution.

Here’s how it works, if someone is caught for something like breaking into your house or crashing into your car, the court requires the criminal to pay you money for damages or injuries. But our investigation last April revealed many victims are never called to appear in court and are unaware they have money coming to them.

Except for sending you a single letter, the state does nothing to track them down and is sitting on $22 million owed to crime victims. We were easily able to find several of you, and got you the thousands you’re owed.

And, as KXAN Investigator Brian Collister reports, because of his story, state lawmakers Monday were looking at legislation to fix the problem we uncovered.

“When this reporter called, he said do you know there’s $22 million in unpaid restitution payments owed to crime victims sitting in state coffers,” said Rep. Charlie Geren to the House committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

State Rep. Charlie Geren appeared Monday before a House committee, because he too is a crime victim. “I’d love to get my money, what do I need to do that? And you need to get yours, so how do we fix this,” said Geren, recounting his conversation with Comptroller Glenn Hegar to lawmakers

Geren was following through on his promise to help other crime victims after the KXAN investigation. The Republican legislator from Fort Worth and others we found have since been paid thousands owed to them by the state which claimed it couldn’t locate them to give them their restitution money.

“I never would have known it had it not been for KXAN doing an investigative story on it. I mean, I owe all that to you guys, so thank you,” said one crime victim who saw our investigation and contacted KXAN.

The new law would allow the comptroller to follow through on his promise to put the names of those owed money on the comptroller’s website.

But it will not reveal they are a crime victim, just that they’re owed money and can contact the agency to collect.

It would also require counties to collect more information on crime victims to help locate them if needed and cut the amount counties get to keep to one and a half percent.

“It will help people who are victims of crime get the restitution they’re entitled to,” said Geren, after he presented the bill to the committee.

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