VI.Networking for Effective Service Delivery
In general, victim/witness coordinators are severely burdened with growing caseloads, a lack of program or administrative
staff, and numerous job-related duties. Such constraints leave victim/witness coordinators little time to establish programs
and services to meet the growing needs of fraud victims. Cases involving fraud make victim/witness coordinators' jobs
even more difficult, especially when those cases involve thousands of victims.
Victim/witness coordinators can employ several effective strategies to enhance their services to fraud victims. Coordinators
can network with members of the community and allied professionals to learn of appropriate referrals, and they can
establish local or regional task forces to address voids in victim assistance programs and services. This section provides
effective strategies to do both.
A.Benefits of Networking
Networking allows victim service providers and, in particular, victim/witness coordinators to take advantage of
opportunities to meet and work with a variety of professional and community colleagues, significantly enhancing their
ability to do the following:
- Learn of new or enhanced victim-related referrals.
- Learn of underserved populations or changing victim needs.
- Address voids in fraud victim assistance services through partnerships with community-based victim service programs
and government agencies.
- Provide training to allied criminal justice professionals, community-based service providers, medical and mental health
practitioners, community residents, and others about the financial and other needs of fraud victims.
- Increase their exposure to model programs and services.
- Gain access to a variety of victim-related resources, publications, and service strategies.
B.Establishing Networking Connections
There are numerous ways to hook into established networks. Suggested avenues include these:
- Attending at monthly meetings of local civic organizations, chambers of commerce, and professional associations
- Joining state and national victim assistance professional organizations
- Serving on the boards of community-based service programs
- Serving on crime-related task forces
- Attending criminal justice-related meetings and training events
- Joining speakers' bureaus
- Attending local, state, regional, and national victim assistance conferences, seminars, and workshops addressing a
variety of victim-related topics and populations, such as elderly, disabled, or other vulnerable victims
Networking provides victim/witness coordinators with other opportunities as well:
- Increased understanding of the nature of criminal victimization (general or crime-specific) by allowing for interactions
with a variety of professional disciplines, philosophies, and work experiences
- Professional growth through attendance at training conferences
- Sharing of work-related experiences through membership in state and national victim assistance professional
C.Using Network Connections to Enhance Services to Fraud Victims
If networking efforts are successful, victim/witness coordinators will have created valuable new contacts to draw upon to
enhance program services to victims of fraud. Examples of using network contacts to enhance fraud victim services include
- Asking accountants, credit counselors, and others identified through networking efforts to speak at informational
workshops, addressing fraud victims' most common concerns, such as "How to Address Credit Problems" or "Fraud
Victims' State and Federal Tax Liabilities"
- Identifying programs and services through volunteer agencies that provide "companion services" and other services to
elderly crime victims
- Learning of job training programs for displaced homemakers or retired seniors who must re-enter the job market due to
D.Establishing a Fraud Victim Task Force
Without a coordinated community approach to serving the informational, emotional, and financial needs of fraud victims, a
fragmented approach to service delivery is likely to occur. This is unfortunate because fragmented approaches often allow
for the duplication of some services, while allowing other victim-related service needs to go unmet. The establishment of
community or regional fraud task forces is one way to achieve comprehensive victim-related services and reduce the
chances of a fragmented service approach.
Task forces can be developed by bringing together representatives of interested groups in area-wide meetings to explore
new ways to work for fraud victims. An added benefit is that the entire workload does not fall on any one person.
1.Task Force Goals
Overall goals can vary from group to group. However, meeting the needs of fraud victims should be one of the primary
goals. Task force goals relating to victim service needs should be fourfold:
- Assess the emotional, financial, and informational service needs of fraud victims.
- Assess local, state, and regional governmental and nonprofit agencies and programs that currently provide services or
support to fraud victims.
- Identify gaps in current programs and services.
- Determine how best to address those gaps.
2.Task Force Membership
A fraud victim task force should include a mix of governmental and community-based professionals and officials,
community leaders, members of the public, and victim representatives so that a variety of expertise and experience can be
drawn upon. Members might include the following:
- Prosecutors (county and federal)
- Law enforcement officers (city, county, and especially those who work with elderly victims through such programs as
- Federal case agents
- Prosecutor-based victim assistance professionals (county and federal)
- Police chiefs
- Probation and parole officers (county, state, and federal)
- Judges (county and federal, representing both criminal and civil courts)
- Elected officials (mayor, county commissioner, county executive, city council members)
- Representative of the state attorney general's division of economic or consumer fraud
- Community-based victim assistance representatives
- Consumer protection agency representatives
- Better Business Bureau representatives
- Aging and adult protective service representatives
- Consumer credit counseling representatives
- Media representatives
- Senior citizen organization representatives
- Local business leaders (especially those in businesses affected by fraud crimes, or those who can provide free or reduced
services such as printing)
- Nonprofit organizations (especially those that deal with consumer fraud and elder abuse)
- Religious leaders
- Fraud victims
3.Task Force Organizational Structure
Some task forces serve as one body to address all issues surrounding the primary subject area. Others create subcommittees
to look at particular issues or concerns in depth and then report back to the full task force with findings or a plan of action.
Task force structuring that allows for subcommittees lets members select issues related to their area of expertise or interest
and make substantial contributions quickly.
Specific subcommittees for a fraud task force might include the following:
- Public Awareness and Education Committee--develops public awareness and education campaigns to prevent fraud. The
committee also works to raise understanding, among other victim service agencies and the general public, of fraud
crimes and the emotional and financial impact to victims and the larger community. Public awareness and education
campaigns can also be useful in reducing the social stigma that many fraud victims experience.
- Legislative Committee--tracks state and federal statutes pertaining to fraud crimes to alert interested parties of changes
that may affect mandated programs and services.
- Prevention Committee--creates opportunities, using promotional materials, to reduce the prevalence of fraud
victimization. Opportunities include hosting community or regional citizen forums, distributing fraud alerts to target
victim populations, and arranging a speakers' series to address topics relevant to fraud crimes.
- Victim Assistance Committee--tracks emerging trends in the delivery of services to fraud victims, assesses current victim
assistance programs, and develops and implements service programs to meet new or emerging victim assistance needs.
- Training Committee--develops strategies to train community service providers and allied criminal justice professionals
(judges, probation and parole officers, prosecutors, case agents, and others) about the effects of fraud victimization.
Additionally, the committee develops and implements local, state, or regional fraud-related training conferences.
- Financial Remuneration Committee--seeks model program services to increase victims' opportunities for financial
4.Additional Task Force Benefits
Task forces can also help raise public awareness about the overall issue of fraud and, in particular, its devastating financial
and emotional impact on victims. Task forces can do so by releasing their findings and recommendations to local, state,
and regional media, such as newspapers and television news programs. Task force findings should also be distributed to at
least the following:
- Local, state, and regional elected officials
- Professional associations
- State bar associations
- Medical, insurance, real estate, contracting, investment, and other local and state licensing boards
- Credit reporting agencies
- Allied criminal justice professionals
- Governmental agencies with mandates to serve specific populations, such as the elderly or disabled
- Nonprofits and other community-based programs that provide direct services to crime victims
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