A statewide upgrade to the victim notification system started in 2016 — and offered through the collaboration of the Kansas Department of Labor, the Office of the Attorney General and the Kansas Sheriffs' Association — was officially implemented at the Harvey County Detention Center at the start of February.

Now, the Harvey County Detention Center is utilizing Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) to inform victims of crimes of updates regarding the status of their offenders. The free service is available 24/7, completely confidential, features multiple language support, allows users to check on an offenders custody status (among other information) — and is much more streamlined than the previous system.

"Before what we would do for victim notification is if somebody wanted notified about a subject being released, we would just take note of that and we would attach it to their file. So at that point, if that individual did get released we would notify the victim manually," said Lt. Brian Huntley of the detention center.

Having not switched to VINE, it was only a matter of time for the Harvey County Detention Center — as numerous other county jails in the region were already utilizing the VINE service.

Compared to the old system, Huntley noted VINE is much more adaptive. While detention center staff would have to make phone calls to notify victims with the old system, VINE is always operating in the background and can automatically update victims on offender status changes in their preferred manner (i.e. call, email, text, etc.).

"It's just constantly reading our database for changes to our residents' statuses, new residents, any changes with anybody," Huntley said. "For instance, if I had someone in jail here for a battery and the victim of that battery wanted to be notified when that individual went to court or when that individual was posting bond, getting released from jail or any sort of status change for that inmate, they could go on with VINE, register and get text message updates, emails and I believe in some circumstances phone calls from VINE notifying them of changes."

Updates can be requested for any number of status changes, as Huntley pointed out, and VINE also gives victims a source for assistance that is completely anonymous — something lacking in the old system that Huntley said could have been a road block for some people.

Right now, Huntley said the biggest barrier is little exposure, but he is hoping the word can get out about VINE and all it can provide to victims in the Harvey County area.

"I think it's very good for the community, especially to get it out there so they're aware of it. It gives victims of violent crime a chance to get somewhere safe if they feel they need to get somewhere safe or to prepare themselves for their aggressor to be coming out because in some circumstances they could feel a danger. It gives them time to plan and know what they need to do to feel safe or be safe in some circumstances," Huntley said. "I think it means a lot to the community for anybody who's suffered from any sort of violent crime, to know that we're trying to set up avenues for them to be notified so that they can feel safer."

Those interested in registering for VINE can visit www.vinelink.com, download the VINELink mobile app or call 866-574-8463.