FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OVC
THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2001 202/307-0703
SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT IMPROVES POLICE OPERATIONS, VICTIM SERVICES, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Victim service providers who work within law enforcement agencies not only provide immediate help to victims, but can also free up police officers to work solely on investigations, according to the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). A new OVC bulletin profiles the Austin, Texas Police Department, one of only 209 law enforcement agencies that have a specialized victim services division.
“Most victim assistance is provided through prosecutors’ offices, but only 21 percent of all major crimes get that far,” said OVC Acting Director Kathryn Turman. “Many victims will never receive the support they need unless law enforcement agencies can help them.”
In 1999, the Austin Police Department’s Victim Services Division saved the department’s patrol units 3,672 hours that they would have otherwise spent with victims. While counselors worked with victims, patrol units were able to continue investigations or respond to other calls.
For 1998, in only 20 percent of the family violence cases handled by the Austin Police Department’s Victim Services Division were the police called again. By comparison, the national average is 55 to 65 percent.
Establishing Victim Services Within a Law Enforcement Agency: The Austin Experience describes how, in its 20-year history, the Austin Victims Services Division grew from one person to 35 paid staff and 300 volunteers. The Division now sees approximately 14,000 victims a year.
The Austin Victims Services Division includes four units:
· Crisis Response – provides immediate, on-the-scene intervention while also explaining police procedures and ensuring follow-up services.
· Major Crimes – offers follow-up services during and after the investigation, such as
counseling, advocacy, expediting victim compensation, and relaying information to the victim about the investigation.
· Child and Family Violence Protection – focuses on domestic violence cases and other cases where children have been exposed to violence.
· District Representative – works with other neighborhood residents where the crime occurred.
The bulletin uses case studies to explain how these units work. It also offers guidance for starting a victim services division within a law enforcement agency, including obtaining funding, developing a strong working relationship with law enforcement officers and maintaining effective staff.
Establishing Victim Services Within a Law Enforcement Agency: The Austin Experience, as well as information about other OVC publications, programs and conferences, are available through the OVC Website at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc and from the OVC Resource Center at 1-800/627-6872.
Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and program offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Media should contact OJP’s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.
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