Our Mission

Our mission is to support crime victims and their families by providing critical and timely information to help keep them safe.

What We Do

Sheriff Assist is a program provided by the New York State Sheriffs’ Institute and funded by the Office of Victim Services. New York State Sheriffs have been providing these critical notification systems since 1998.

The Order of Protection Notification System and Inmate Release Notification System are free services offered to crime victims and their families and often used as part of their safety plans. Anyone of any gender, race or age can become a crime victim at any time. That’s why NYSSI works with victims’ advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies, and courts systems throughout the state to train and provide education on the systems so they can cooperatively help crime victims stay safe.

Our History

Established in 1979

the New York State Sheriffs’ Institute comprises all 58 elected and appointed Sheriffs of New York State. Our mission is to advance criminal justice education, prevent juvenile delinquency, and support victims of crime and their families throughout New York State. Our programs include: the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp; our Criminal Justice Scholarship Program; and our Crime Victim Notification Services. The Sheriffs’ Institute is a not-for- profit, tax-exempt organization.


About New York’s Sheriffs

Most of New York’s sheriffs are elected officials, accountable to the voter every 4 years. Your county sheriff likely provides: criminal law enforcement, traffic patrol, emergency rescue operations, homeland security programs, SWAT operations, civil emergency response, jail operations, courtroom security, and civil litigation process.


Committed to Crime Victims

The NYS Sheriffs’ Institute has been in the business of providing victim notification services since 1998 when we received our first Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant through the New York State Office of Victim Services. The grant allowed us to establish and administer our Inmate Release Notification System (powered by VINE) in all the county correctional facilities in New York State, which are, of course, run by the New York’s Sheriffs. The VINE System was created in 1994 in Kentucky after the tragic murder of Mary Byron on her 21st birthday by her former boyfriend and attacker. (Click here to read Mary Byron’s story.)


Ed Wutzer, our former Director of Victim Services, learned about the VINE program soon after it was created and, recognizing its value to crime victims, set out to bring it New York State. A former Chairman of New York States’ Commission of Corrections, Ed worked with the sheriffs and jail administrators across the state to help them establish the system at their facilities. Today every county in New York is linked to the system, along with New York City and the New York State Department of Correctional Services.


The Order of Protection Notification System was created in 2009 with a grant from the US Bureau of Justice Assistance. With this “Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification” grant (aka SAVIN) a notification system was established that allows victims who have been granted an Order of Protection from a Family Court in New York State, including New York City, to register to be notified when the order of protection is served by law enforcement. Of course, these orders are often served by Sheriff’s Deputies. This system has been expanded to all of the criminal courts in New York State.


In 2020, Jaymes Hurley was hired to replace the retiring Ed Wutzer as the Director of Victim Services.  Jaymes brought with him years of law enforcement experience from the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office which included supervisory roles in service of Orders of Protection and a history of working with crime victim advocates, the court system and law enforcement agencies across New York State.

Our Staff

Christopher G. O’Brien

Executive Director

Chris has been with the NYS Sheriffs’ Institute since it was established in 1979. As Executive Director, Chris oversees the many activities of the Institute, including the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp, the Criminal Justice Scholarship Program, the Victim Notification Programs, and the Honorary Membership Program that helps to support our work. While he is responsible for our many programs, for Chris it truly is all about the kids.

Carrie Kronick

Finance Operations Manager

Carrie has been with the NYS Sheriffs’ Institute since 2007. Initially hired as a Bookkeeper, Carrie’s role has expanded into all aspects of our work. In addition to her role managing the day-to-day financial operations, Carrie manages the Honorary Membership Program, is responsible for budget reporting for our grants, and supports the victim notification and summer camp programs.

Jaymes W. Hurley

Director of Victim Services

Jaymes joined the New York State Sheriff’s Institute as the Director of Victim Services in 2020. In this capacity works alongside law enforcement, victim advocacy groups, and the court system while he oversees the management and application of the Institute’s victim services. These include both the VINE program, as well as the Sheriff’s Institute’s Order of Protection Notification Program. He started his career working at the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office in Syracuse, NY. During his 15 years in law enforcement, he was assigned to a number of positions, including assignments in both the Custody (Corrections) and Civil Departments.

He departed the Sheriff’s Office in 2020 as a Lieutenant assigned as the Commander of the Civil Division. Outside of his work with the Sheriff’s Institute, Jaymes serves as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He has held many assignments and has been deployed/recalled in support of a different operations to include Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

Daniel M. Foro

Senior Advisor

Dan has served as Senior Advisor to the Sheriffs’ Institute since 2012. He retired as Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in 2009 with 25 years of service. Prior to DCJS Dan served as a Probation Supervisor in Albany County for eight years.

Victim Services Advisory Board

Sheriff Ernest Cutting, Chenango County


Chenango County Sheriff Ernest Cutting became Chairman of the NYS Victims’ Advisory Board in 2017. Sheriff Cutting began his career with the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office on January 1, 1987 and rose through the ranks, holding the positions of Deputy, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Jail Administrator and Undersheriff. He was appointed to the position of Sheriff in June 2009 and elected to his first four-year term the following November. Sheriff Cutting received the NYS Deputy Sheriff’s “Officer of the Year Award” for disarming an emotionally disturbed man committing an armed robbery in Chenango County. Under Sheriff Cutting, his office maintains accreditation of the Law Enforcement, Corrections, Emergency Communication/911 and Civil Divisions.

Sheriff Juan Figueroa, Ulster County

Vice Chairman

Juan Figueroa has always been moved by a sense of service to people in his community and country. The son of Puerto Rican parents who immigrated to New York, Sheriff Figueroa grew up in the Bronx before his family moved upstate. Figueroa joined the US Marine Corps out of high school and was stationed overseas where he learned the importance of racial diversity and respect, regardless of personal differences. After active duty with the Marines for four years, Figueroa served 18 years with the Marine Corps Reserve. In the early 1990s he was in charge of deploying over 150 Marines and support requirements during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Figueroa became a trooper with the New York State Police in 1988, patrolling roads in Ulster County. During his 25-year term with the State Police, he acted as a Police Academy Instructor and Field Training Officer, then as an Investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Figueroa believes in upholding the law while working with the community and applying proactive and sensible approaches to pressing issues.

Tabitha Dunn

Director of Domestic Violence Services at Unity House

Tabitha Dunn first came to UH in 2001 to provide babysitting for children while their mothers attended counseling meetings. In her nearly seventeen years at Unity House, Ms. Dunn’s love for children has turned into a passion for serving victims and survivors of dating and domestic violence. Having worked in a myriad of positions during her tenure including Overnight Counselor, Case Manager, Family Counselor, Assistant Service Director and now Service Director, Ms. Dunn is well acquainted with the needs of the program and the people it serves.

As an avid supporter of inclusion and prevention work as a key to combatting domestic and dating violence , Ms. Dunn regularly provides training and education programs at a wide range of community organizations and educational institutions. Additionally, Ms. Dunn has presented at the American Psychological Association international conference on the co-morbidity of interpersonal violence, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance use. Ms. Dunn holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from SUNY Albany and a conditional license as a Mental Health Counselor.

Dr. Lisa O’Connor

Deputy CEO and Chief Programs Officer at Safe Horizons

Dr. Lisa A. O’Connor was promoted to the roles of Deputy CEO and Chief Program Officer as of March 2021. Lisa joined Safe Horizon in 2013 as the Deputy Chief Program Officer and was later promoted to Chief Program Officer. She is a psychologist by training and has spent most of her career in service to children and families impacted by violence. During her time at Safe Horizon, Lisa has led efforts to address the needs of young men of color who have been harmed by violence; implemented client-centered, trauma-informed practices that recognize the impact of racism in the lives of survivors; and led the successful fulfillment of a five-year strategic plan.

Prior to Safe Horizon, Lisa spent almost a decade in child welfare developing and implementing new program models and policies, first as an Assistant Commission at the Administration for Children’s Services and later as Vice President for Children and Family Services at the New York Foundling. In these roles, she designed innovative programs that brought evidence-based models to preventive services and for children in foster care and residential placement. She also developed policy and specialized foster care programming to help reduce child welfare’s use of residential placements for young people approaching adulthood.

Lisa has devoted most of her career to working on behalf of vulnerable populations. She has provided direct service to families in crisis: those experiencing family violence, impacted by poverty, and involved in systems. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University and a BA in Psychology from Smith College.

James B. Ritts, Esq.

Ontario County District Attorney

Jim Ritts was elected as the District Attorney for Ontario County in 2017 and became the District Attorney in 2018. He started work as an Ontario County Assistant District Attorney in July, 1999, having moved to New York from Ohio in 1997. Jim has been a prosecutor for over 23 years in New York and additionally prosecuted in Lake County, Ohio for one year. Jim has worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Lake County, Ohio from 1988-1993 and in Yates County, New York from 1998-1999. Jim was Capital Defense qualified in Ohio. He has been involved in felony prosecutions with a particular interest in Special Victims prosecutions including Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence. Jim is the Chairman for the Board of Directors for the Child Advocacy Center of the Finger Lakes.

The Ontario County District Attorney’s Office, due to the Office of Victim Services grant, has three full-time advocates, a case manager, and facility dog, Juno. This amazing staff is able to provide immediate support and referrals to victims through the criminal justice process as well as after a case is resolved through our case manager.