Luverne Police Department
Luverne is located in Crenshaw County in southeastern Alabama, about 50 miles from Montgomery. It has an estimated 2,728 residents (2006) and is gradually growing with the increase of incoming factories. Residents are predominantly White (70 percent) and Black (28 percent). Primary jobs include farming, poultry production, and factory work and there is a 2-percent unemployment rate. The median household income is $30,950, and 23 percent of residents live in poverty. Of residents 25 years of age and over, 20 percent have a college degree. The Luverne Police Department has 12 sworn officers.
With a growing city population and an increase in violent crime, the Luverne Police Department experienced a corresponding rise in demand for police services, particularly from victims of domestic violence. The OVC grant allowed the department to create a Victim Service Unit to assist crime victims and educate police officers, victims, their families, and the public about victimization issues. An office was established in City Hall, two blocks from the police department, and a victim service officer (VSO) was hired to serve as a liaison between police officers and victims.
The VSO developed a brochure for officers to provide to victims at the crime scene with information on their rights, space for the responding officer's contact data, and services offered through the police department and the community. Copies of the brochure were also given to other area police departments and placed in local businesses, medical facilities and offices, schools, and other locations. As far as direct services
- The VSO was on call 24/7, providing on-scene assistance to victims as needed, callback referral services, and followup contact to keep victims up-to-date on their case status.
- The VSO provided transportation assistance to enable victims to access safe housing and services.
- In the absence of temporary housing resources for domestic violence victims, the VSO partnered with a local motel owner who was willing to provide a room for victims for up to 3 days.
- The VSO assembled 100 child backpacks with crayons, coloring books, and toys. Officers gave the backpacks to child victims and witnesses when they removed them from dangerous situations.
- The department contracted with a licensed psychologist to provide free individual counseling to victims.
- The VSO implemented "A Child Is Missing" service to ensure local agencies were aware of procedures to quickly respond to child abductions.
During the grant period, the VSO provided crime scene assistance 16 times, 5 victims took advantage of the free counseling, and 15 victims received transportation assistance. The VSO also assisted victims through the county sheriff's office more than two dozen times.
The VSO coordinated a community forum to educate police officers and the public on domestic violence, and an 8-hour training program on domestic violence and victim services for area law enforcement officers. In addition, the grant provided funding for a number of officers to attend other trainings. The VSO wrote monthly articles in the local newspaper on topics of victimization, counseling, support groups, legal options, and the criminal justice system. She became a member of the county Domestic Violence Task Force. She spoke to local groups on the victim services the police department offered.
Evaluative feedback from victims who used the services offered by the VSO was generally positive. Recognizing the value of the Victim Service Unit, the police department continued the VSO position for 5 months after the end of the grant period. The hope was that additional funds could be found to sustain the initiative. The department worked to gain financial support from the city and local businesses for its victim service efforts. Because the VSO had assisted victims from the county sheriff's office, the department also proposed a plan for several local and county law enforcement agencies to share the cost for the VSO to cover all areas in the county. Unfortunately, the department was not able to secure the funding necessary to support the VSO position and discontinued the effort. However, officers continue to provide domestic violence victims with resource materials to help connect them with the assistance they need.