nitial issues to consider when establishing a victim services program within a law enforcement agency include defining the victim assistance program by identifying its goals, addressing funding possibilities, and stressing the importance of supporting a full-time victim assistance coordinator position.
Defining the Victim Assistance Program
Hutchison determined that the Austin Victim Assistance Program had two sets of customers: the victims and families, and the officers themselves. The first step in developing the program was to define the program by identifying the programs goals within the law enforcement agency. The overall goal of the Austin program was to minimize the adverse emotional and psychological stresses resulting from being the victim/survivor of crime or trauma which included the victims family, witnesses, neighborhood, and public safety responders within 24 hours. According to background information on the program, addressing these needs will facilitate the victims, witnesses, and neighborhoods willingness and ability to cooperate with the criminal justice system in the investigation and prosecution of the crimes.
Once a program has defined its goals, the next step is to find funding. Among the possibilities are grants from sources like the state Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) program or the state Violence Against Women Act program. Both are federal grant programs that the states use to provide funding for local victim assistance or domestic violence programs. The VOCA program funds approximately 4,000 victim assistance programs nationwide, including the Austin program. A number of different programs are also funded through the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and additional funding may be available from these agencies. More detailed information can be found on the Grants and Funding page on OVCs Web site (www.ovc.gov/fund) or by calling the OVC Resource Center at 18008513420. Although grants are a good way to get started, it is important to eventually secure funding from the law enforcement agency so that the victim services program is seen as an integral part of the department.
Full-Time Victim Service Coordinator
In a larger law enforcement agency, the job of a victim service coordinator must be full time, according to Hutchison. Sometimes departments have a secretary take on the job part time, or an officer assumes the responsibilities. The program, however, is not likely to become established without someone whose full-time job is dedicated to making sure that the needs of law enforcement and victims are met.