Victim Assistance: Lessons From the Field
Training for Victim Service Providers and Allied Professionals
Below is a sampling of training programs and ideas offered by the grantees. The materials provided here can be adapted for use by other victim service providers or law enforcement personnel.
Because victim service providers possess basic knowledge about victims’ rights in the criminal justice system, many of the grantees focused on training service providers to recognize identity theft, to assist victims in changing habits to minimize re-victimization, to understand the emotional impact of the crime, and to assist victims in using federal and state civil laws to recover financially. VICARS’ staff, for example, presented numerous trainings to victim service providers, as well as to advocates, attorneys, nurses, social workers, law enforcement, and benefits counselors. VICARS developed a basic presentation (PDF 1.7 mb) that could be tailored to each audience.
The Identity Theft Resource Center provides trainings to a wide variety of groups, from notaries and bankers’ associations to law enforcement and fraud investigators, to the U.S. Customs Service and the Social Security Administration. (See also the extensive trainings offered by OVC TTAC for victim service providers, including its new identity theft-specific training for service providers.)
In recent years, law enforcement has become more willing to help victims learn about identity theft and to make "first step" brochures available to their local communities, but chronic budget issues make it difficult for many law enforcement agencies to train and adequately staff an identity theft unit, provide victim advocates, and distribute community outreach materials. (For more about successfully partnering with law enforcement, see AVA’s experience in the "Building Partnerships" section.)
Because of the nature of identity theft, many cases go uninvestigated or unsolved. Unfortunately, victims do not always realize what is necessary to bring an offender to justice and can become extremely frustrated with law enforcement. It’s essential for law enforcement to gain the trust and cooperation of the victim. Toward achieving this goal, the Identity Theft Resource Center provides a wide array of fact sheets and tools for law enforcement to help them to better understand what victims need to move forward in their cases. The center also provides training to law enforcement.
Since the beginning of the grant period, ITRC has referred hundreds of criminal identity theft cases to various law enforcement agencies. The center has frequent contact with law enforcement throughout the Nation, and initiates contact with one or more law enforcement agencies for each criminal identity theft case.
Profiling MCVRC’s Experience With Law Enforcement Training
An important aspect of assisting identity theft victims involves developing a relationship with law enforcement officials, who play a key role in resolving identity theft issues. The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. collaborated with law enforcement agencies to educate and train officers about identity theft and on how they can assist victims.
Obtaining Proper Certification
The Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission allowed an attorney from MCVRC to participate in one of its 7-day, intensive Enhanced Instructor Training Programs. This program teaches instructors how to train law enforcement officials through adult learning techniques and methods.
After obtaining the proper certification from the commission, MCVRC created an identity theft presentation tailored to law enforcement agencies’ in-service trainings. The presentation dealt with law enforcement’s responsibilities to identity theft victims under state and federal laws. It also developed assessment techniques to measure participants’ understanding of the materials.
- Sample Law Enforcement Training Program
- Sample Test Assessment provided at the end of the presentation
Implementing the Program
MCVRC, along with the Federal Trade Commission, Maryland Vehicle Administration, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and detectives from local law enforcement, participated in a law enforcement training program on identity theft conducted by the State of Maryland at various locations. The program was designed to—
- Provide an overview of identity theft.
- Help law enforcement appreciate the needs of victims of identity theft.
- Help law enforcement recognize the importance of filing a police report.
- Make law enforcement aware of the resources available to victims of identity theft.
One of the challenges for victim service organizations that plan to offer presentations on identity theft to law enforcement is to help officers to see identity theft as more than a property crime. In addition, the importance of filing a police report and providing a copy of the report to the victim must be emphasized to officers.
As a consequence of the training, the center found that law enforcement officers were more likely to provide identity theft victims with a copy of the police report and to be more sensitive to the needs of these victims. MCVRC also noted an increase in victim referrals by police officers who attended the trainings.