Starting Victim Services
Make the Program Operational
- Establish a program office. The location should maximize accessibility for victims and allow staff to easily coordinate with officers. If multiple counties are served, consider using satellite offices.
- Be clear about which services the program will offer victimswill it solely provide information and referrals, or will it offer a broader range of services? Consider steps involved in delivering each service. Train staff to provide/coordinate services. Create a system for communicating with law enforcement officers and community partners to activate services or coordinate service delivery.
- Obtain equipment and supplies needed to implement the program.
- Develop policies, protocols, and procedures that outline how each program component will operate and be coordinated with law enforcement officers and other agencies. Pilot test protocols and procedures and make revisions as needed. Take steps to facilitate officer compliance with these policies, protocols, and procedures.
- Develop forms to track the services provided; activate coordinated response by victim services staff, officers, and community partners; and facilitate compliance with program policies. Also consider developing a computer database to track service delivery.
- Take steps to gain officers' cooperation in implementing the program. Start by developing and distributing informational materials to officers and providing them with victim resources. Determine the best methods to train officers on victimization issues, victims' rights, and local resources, and instruct them on new policies, protocols, and procedures. Provide training seminars on a regular basis if there is a high staff turnover. In addition, reach out to officers and their supervisors individually to increase their understanding of the program, learn what they think victims need, demonstrate program benefits, and build their comfort level in using the program. These one-on-one interactions can be invaluable in creating positive relationships between victim services staff and officers. Also, recognize that little things such as simply acknowledging a job well done can make a difference in building trust between officers and victim services staff.
- Develop program materials for victims and the public in the languages and formats appropriate to predominant populations. Distribute materials to victims via law enforcement officers and to residents during local events and through outlets in the community.
- Market the program to the community. It may take time for the public to become comfortable using a law enforcement-based victim services program. First, raise public awareness and the awareness of community organizations of the availability of the program, using various marketing methods, including public service announcements or paid advertisements for print, radio, Internet, television, and billboards; promotional items; regular newspaper columns; Web sites; staff participation in community events and meetings; and staff involvement in crime prevention task forces. Seek positive media coverage. Public awareness efforts should work to counter victim reluctance to report crimes and seek services and be customized to address community-specific needs, such as outreach to farm workers that can be done after their work day, at locations they frequent, and in their language of preference. Also, initiate relationships with community partners to ensure that they refer victims to the program and coordinate with the program on individual cases.