Crime victims in Clatsop County have a new tool to protect themselves against an offender.

Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) is a telephone service that provides victims, as well as other concerned citizens, with inmate custody and case information and release notification. The automated, toll-free phone service provides 24-hour access to the current status of offenders, including custody and parole and probation information.

"I encourage crime victims to make VINE one part of their safety plan," Clatsop County sheriff's Chief Deputy Tom Bergin said. "Victims can sign up with VINE to be automatically notified if the perpetrator is about to be released from any state adult or juvenile prison or county jail in Oregon."

For years, the Clatsop County Jail staff has notified victims locally when an offender is released from the county's facility. The jail will continue that practice, Bergin said, but VINE broadens the type of information available to victims. Sheriff John Raichl acknowledged the County's Central Services department for providing the technical assistance to hook up with VINE.

The VINE system electronically links Oregon Department of Corrections and county jail computer databases with its national call center. The offender must be in custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections, Oregon Youth Authority or a county jail in Oregon or on probation or parole with Community Corrections.

Callers can call any time to find out the current custody status and charges against an offender, the location of the inmate, the next court date and time and an inmate's scheduled release date. Callers can also leave a phone number to be automatically notified if an offender is about to be released from custody or if the offender's probation status changes. The offender won't know if someone has registered with VINE to be notified.

"This is an extremely important service to the citizens of our community, especially those who have been victimized by crime. VINE provides our residents with another method to keep track of offenders and take measures to keep them and their families safe," County Administrator Scott Derickson said.

VINE was implemented in 1994 by Jefferson County, Kentucky, corrections officials in response to the brutal murder of a woman by a former boyfriend. She had asked to be notified if he were to make bail because she was extremely fearful of him, but nobody did.

The VINE system is available in more than 40 states and 900 communities across the United States and Canada. VINE provides information in English and Spanish. Oregon is the first state in the nation to provide notifications about offenders on parole or post-prison and probation supervision.

Call (877) 674-8463 any time seven days a week for offender information or to register for notification services.