Overview of Activities
Most sites indicated that their law enforcement agencies and community partners dramatically increased the level and types of assistance provided to victims at the crime scene or following a crime report. Collectively, the sites reported serving more than 14,000 victims in some capacity during the grant period. More specific outcomes included the following:
- Systems In Place To Facilitate Victim Assistance
- Victim-Centered Attitudes and Practices
- Increased Partnerships and Networking
- Increased Use of Local and Regional Resources
- Gaps in Responses to Victims Addressed
- Shifts in Public Attitude
- Positive Profiles of Law Enforcement Agencies
- Overwhelmingly Positive Feedback
Systems In Place To Facilitate Victim AssistanceMost sites established procedures to facilitate timely victim assistance during the initial law enforcement response and the investigation. Their victim service initiatives often aided victims who otherwise would not have accessed the criminal justice system or community resources. The Dona Ana County's Victim Assistance Unit, for example, reached out to migrant farm workers.
Victim-Centered Attitudes and PracticesOfficers' attitudes shifted regarding their role in assisting victims and their acceptance of a victim service component in their agencies, leading them to adopt a more victim-centered10 approach to their work. The administrator of Cherokee County's Victim Advocate Program, for instance, facilitated acceptance by riding along with deputies on their patrol shifts to learn about their duties and the challenges they face when responding to domestic violence calls. In turn, the deputies came to understand the positive effect of having a victim advocate on hand to assist the victim. At most sites, officers learned about the benefits of in-house victim services and increasingly connected victims to those services. For example, Pell City assigned an officer to its Victim Service Unit and his established relationships with other officers were invaluable in getting them to refer victims to the unit.
Increased Partnerships and NetworkingLaw enforcement agencies at several sites contracted with social and victim service agencies to help implement the grantMontgomery County worked with a local victim service organization, Victims of Crime and Leniency, to conduct a needs assessment. Some sites used multidisciplinary committees to guide their efforts and facilitate coordination with local agenciesHartford convened an interagency council to establish its Victim Service Office and recruited the County Family Guidance Center to act as its host and facilitator. Many law enforcement agencies began participating in existing crime-related community organizing effortsMobile County's victim services coordinator was active on the County Domestic Violence Task Force. In a few instances, victim services program staff helped rejuvenate or expand collaborative initiativesMahnomen County's Victim-Witness Services Program and Siskiyou County's Victim Service Unit played a leading role in enhancing their local coordinated responses to sexual assault victims.
Although some local organizations were initially cautious about partnering with a law enforcement-based victim services program, over time these programs proved their value as a resource for victims and a partner to other agencies serving victims.
Increased Use of Local and Regional ResourcesReferrals from law enforcement-based victim service programs led more victims to obtain help from local service providersMontgomery County's Victim Service Unit created a toll free hotline so that victims could obtain recorded information on area resources. Community service providers also began referring victims to the law enforcement-based victim service programsPort Gamble S'Klallam established procedures with the Harrison Hospital Sexual Assault Nursing Team and Social Work Department, and with the Kitsap County Sexual Assault Center, to contact its Crime Victim Advocate Program if a Native American victim came to their agencies.
Gaps in Responses to Victims AddressedThe needs assessment process helped sites identify gaps in the law enforcement and community response to victims, and they designed programs to bridge those gaps; when the Maine State Police's Project Connection learned that elder victims and victims whose cases were not prosecuted were not applying for victim compensation, it began helping victims fill out these applications.
Shifts in Public AttitudeAt many sites, community outreach and education efforts increased the public's awareness of victimization issues and its willingness to use law enforcement-based victim service programs and other local resources. For example, Ross County placed kiosks in different locations to help connect residents with resources. Each kiosk had a touch screen personal computer containing information on the project and the resources available to local crime victims. Montgomery County's Victim Service Unit printed a hand fan in English and Spanish with information about local resources and distributed it mainly to churches.
Positive Profiles of Law Enforcement AgenciesThe reputation of law enforcement agencies at most sites benefited from their victim service efforts, partnerships built with local organizations, publicity campaigns to raise awareness of services, and staff participation in local events and meetings. At a few sites, including Mahnomen County, Monroe County, Pinal County, and Ross County, the victim services initiative garnered state and national recognition.
Overwhelmingly Positive FeedbackSites evaluated the effectiveness of their efforts using such means as victim comment forms and written and phone surveys. Victims who provided feedback overwhelmingly indicated satisfaction with the help they received from the victim service programs and law enforcement agencies. They commented that the victim services staff/law enforcement agency helped them recognize their rights as victims, participate in the criminal justice process, learn about and access other resources, and cope with their situation. Some sites also surveyed officers, other justice office personnel, and local service providers and mainly received encouraging and constructive feedback on the usefulness of their initiatives.