Montgomery County Sheriff's Office
Montgomery County is located in central Alabama, covering 790 square miles. Of its estimated 223,571 residents (2006), 22,000 live outside the city of Montgomery. The county population is primarily Black (53 percent) and White (44 percent). The median household income is $35,680, and 19 percent of residents live in poverty. Of residents 25 years of age and over, 29 percent have a college degree. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office has 114 sworn and 47 non-sworn personnel.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office used the OVC grant to address gaps in services for rural crime victims in its existing Victim Service Unit. The office first worked with a local victim services organization, Victims of Crime and Leniency, to conduct a community needs assessment. It assigned a victim services deputy to the unit, as well as a lieutenant to provide supervision and monitor and analyze statistical data garnered through calls for service. In terms of direct services
- The victim services deputy maintained followup contact with victims, providing emotional support, assistance accessing community resources, and accompaniment to court proceedings.
- A toll free hotline was created so residents could call the unit 24/7 to obtain recorded information on available area resources. Obtaining a toll free number for this hotline took time because the county did not already have a vendor to provide this service.
- A victims' rights brochure was developed in English and Spanish (there is a small Hispanic population) and given to deputies to distribute to victims when they answer a call for service or see an opportunity.
- Backpacks filled with toys, coloring books, and crayons were assembled for child victims and witnesses at the crime scene. These backpacks helped comfort the children and build trust between deputies and children. Designing and producing the backpack was time-consuming for two reasons: first, the state of mind of child victims/witnesses had to be considered during the design process; and second, the county process of bidding had to be used to select a vendor to produce the backpack.
- During the grant period, the unit provided assistance to 94 victims66 were victims of violent crime.
Unit staff trained deputies on use of the victim service brochure, information to provide to victims, responsibilities of the victim service deputy, and services available to victims through the unit. They participated in numerous community meetings and events to publicize unit services, gain community support, and get feedback on ways to enhance response to rural victims. As a publicity tool, a hand fan, commonly used in southern churches, was developed in English and Spanish and distributed mainly to churches. The fan listed contact information for emergency and social services resources and the Victim Service Unit. The chief deputy of the sheriff's office spent considerable time working with local radio and television stations and technicians to create and air a public service announcement (PSA) informing residents of the unit, contact information for resources, and reporting procedures.
Based on the largely positive feedback it received from victims and community members, the sheriff's office decided to absorb the costs of personnel for the Victim Services Unit, brochures, fans, the victim service hotline, and child backpacks. PSA airing remained free of charge.