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Now that the Victim Services Division at the Austin Police Department is well established, the program faces the challenges of meeting the demands of a decentralized department. When Hutchison started 20 years ago, she knew virtually every officer in the department. That is no longer possible. Austin has grown from 250,000 to 800,000 residents in the past two decades. The District Representative Unit, which was set up in 1996, is one answer to that problem. Those counselors are also able to address the previously unknown victims—like a woman who sang in the choir or the coworker and kids down the street who were affected when someone they knew was killed. In the past, Victim Services may not have reached out to them.

In the months following the triple homicide, Victim Services counselors continued to provide services to the victims’ families, friends, and coworkers. A little more than a year after the murders, the suspect, Louis Castro Perez, was convicted of murder and given the death penalty. Officers had found a palm print on a bloody tile floor, which matched a print of Perez that they had on file. Prosecutors never discovered a clear motive for the slayings. In the midst of this horror, the victims’ families have had someone from Victim Services at their side, right from the start. “They had access to assistance that they otherwise wouldn’t have had,” said Delores Litton, the counselor in the homicide unit who worked most closely with the victims’ families. “They had information about what would happen next in the investigation. They had some guidance on what to do next, like how to find counseling for their children. They did not have to worry about those details . . . .”

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Establishing Victim Services Within a Law Enforcement Agency:
The Austin Experience
March 2001
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