Victim Services in Rural Law Enforcement
Victims in rural areas face additional obstacles that affect the availability, timeliness, and quality of victim services: long distances, geographic isolation, limited funding and resources, a lack of information about victimization, and social attitudes that may discourage victims from seeking help. Law enforcement officers are often the first individuals to approach victims after a crime and may be the only contact that victims have with the criminal justice system. In rural communities with limited resources for helping victims begin the emotional, physical, and financial healing process, law enforcement agencies need help identifying resources and promising practices that creatively and economically meet this need.
In Fiscal Year 2002, OVC inaugurated the Victim Services for Rural Law Enforcement Initiative, a multiyear demonstration project, and provided funding for the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the National Sheriffs' Association to develop projects to help integrate a strong victim assistance component into the services provided by rural law enforcement agencies. Each project competitively selected 10 rural sites to receive a grant to complete a planning process and community needs assessment. Subsequently, the sites received additional funding to develop or significantly enhance their ability to provide assistance to victims, including the first response to victims by law enforcement. The demonstration project concludes in 2007, after which time OVC will release a bulletin documenting the experience of the pilot sites and providing a guide for rural law enforcement agencies to develop similar efforts.