Georgia: Monroe County Sheriff's Office
Monroe County is located in the heart of Georgia, covering 397 square miles. It has an estimated population of 24,433 (2006). Its largest town and county seat, Forsyth, has an estimated 4,171 residents (2006). The county is growing due to the expansion of surrounding towns and an influx of people from the Macon and Atlanta areas; the population in 2000 was 21,757.
Residents are predominantly White (72 percent) and Black (26 percent). The median household income is $44,195, and 10 percent of the population lives in poverty. Of residents 25 years of age and over, 17 percent have a college degree. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has 124 employees: 58 sworn officers, 66 civilian employees, and 26 jail and corrections employees.
In 1992, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office established a children's advocacy center, the C.A.R.E. (Child Abuse Reporting Enforcement) Cottage. Over time, the C.A.R.E. Cottage expanded to include the Sheriff's Victim-Witness Program and to provide assistance to all crime victims in the county. By the time the sheriff's office was awarded the OVC grant, the C.A.R.E. Cottage was in need of increased resources to respond to the steady rise in crime victims seeking its services.
The director of the C.A.R.E. Cottage brought together a multidisciplinary working group to assist with a needs assessment to identify gaps in services and guide planning and implementation of the grant project. The goal was to heighten the comprehensiveness of services offered to victims. The group included representatives from law enforcement, prosecution, probation, schools, mental health services, the Department of Family and Children Services, and other service agencies. The working group was invaluable in ensuring grant activities reflected the needs of the community as indicated in the needs assessment and keeping project implementation on course.
Grant funding made it possible to enhance the capabilities of the C.A.R.E. Cottage. A full-time victim services coordinator was hired to supplement existing staff. Through the grant, the director obtained state and national accreditation as an advanced victim advocate and the victim services coordinator obtained state and national accreditation as a basic victim advocate. The C.A.R.E. Cottage provided direct victim services, such as making contact with victims at the crime scene, the hospital, or a safe location as quickly after a crime occurs as possible; assisting the victim in obtaining medical, emotional, and financial assistance; providing information and referrals; accompanying victims during court proceedings; and providing transportation assistance. College student volunteers assisted staff in meeting demand for C.A.R.E. Cottage services by helping to mail out victim packets, aiding with victim followup, and providing office support. The C.A.R.E. Cottage assisted approximately 1,780 victims during the grant period.
To respond to the lack of affordable, local counseling services for crime victims, the project contracted with area mental health therapists to provide two free group therapy/victim support classes at the C.A.R.E. Cottage. One therapist led a loosely structured program that could incorporate new members easily. Another offered a more structured program on a different night.
Beyond direct victim services, the C.A.R.E. Cottage produced public awareness resources including magnets, bookmarks, and handouts; a brochure describing C.A.R.E. Cottage services; instructional materials for deputies on response to victims; and materials for deputies to give to victims. To optimize services for victims, the C.A.R.E. Cottage built partnerships with local service providers, such as the Department of Family and Children Services, the Macon Rescue Mission, and the River Edge Behavioral Health Center.
The project's decision to create only one victim services coordinator position was based on sustainability—the sheriff's office did not have the budgetary resources to assume more than one additional employee. Toward the end of the grant period, the sheriff's office committed to support this position within its budget. It also continued the counseling program.