Core Elements and Challenges
Assessing community needs helped the subgrantees to identify local problems and strengths related to serving crime victims and develop customized strategies to address gaps. In some instances, assessment results led agencies to emphasize working with particular groups of victims. Once the program was operational, staff periodically sought input on program effectiveness from victims, law enforcement officers, other criminal justice personnel, and service providers. Evaluative measuresvictims' satisfaction forms, written and phone surveys, and focus group discussionshelped ensure programs were in tune with victims' needs. Some sites established databases to track the victim services they provided, which they then tapped into for evaluative statistics, excluding identifying information. Evaluation results can be used to increase the effectiveness of the response to victims and support program staff as they seek additional funding.
ChallengeDiscovering how to best serve victims in a community can be a resource-intensive process. To help gather needs assessment and evaluative data, some sites used resources of member agencies on their multidisciplinary committees. Some law enforcement agencies partnered with local service organizations experienced in community surveying. Several enlisted consultants, such as university faculty, to lead needs assessment and evaluation efforts. Some used volunteers to gather data, including college interns and graduate assistants.
Sites used numerous strategies to deal with the common problem of low response rates to needs assessment surveys. Some relied on multiple methods to collect data, such as written surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings, and targeted surveys for specific populations. Some embedded their needs assessment questions in broader community surveys. Some surveyed large pools of victims as identified in law enforcement records over a specific time period. The aid of community organizations and groups was sought to distribute surveys and increase victim participation in focus groups and meetings.