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Victim Services Unit Volunteers, Travis County Sheriff's Office

2018 Volunteer for Victims Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards
Watch the tribute video

Victim Services Unit Volunteers, Travis County Sheriff's Office | Volunteer for Victims Award
Austin, Texas

The Victim Services Unit (VSU) of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office was initiated in 1984, prior to state mandates requiring crime victim liaisons within law enforcement agencies. VSU’s mission is to enhance the response of law enforcement by providing crisis intervention, advocacy, and access to resources that reduce the impact of trauma on individuals and the community. 

VSU is on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is composed of a Victim Services Director, a Social Services Program Coordinator, and six Victim Services Specialists. Additionally, through the Victim Services Unit Volunteer Program, approximately 50 trained volunteers contribute their time and skills to serve victims of crime and crisis circumstances. Trained volunteers provide on-scene services (in-person and via phone) to victims, including crisis intervention; assistance with exercising constitutional and statutory rights; help with establishing personal safety; securing access to community services; assistance with crime victim compensation applications; educational and emotional support; criminal justice process education; and assistance in maintaining continuity of services between departments and agencies. 

VSU volunteers participate in multiple events, including the community-wide National Crime Victims’ Rights Week ceremony, volunteer recruiting events, and bi-annual VSU volunteer training. Volunteers also assist VSU with tasks such as preparing materials for new volunteer training, ensuring updates to VSU’s comprehensive community resource guide, and assisting with agency- and community-wide continuing education training. Additionally, VSU volunteers develop and implement yearly goals, including developing new resource materials to provide to victims on scene, identifying training gaps, and strengthening VSU relationships with specialized units and agencies. 

Since 2013, the number of victims served by VSU has increased by 29 percent and on-call requests have increased by 34 percent. With consistent program growth and development, volunteer coverage for on-call shifts has increased to more than 50 percent each month. This has resulted in a decrease in fatigue among paid staff and a 24.5-percent decrease in overtime expenditures. VSU could not function effectively without the unequivocal dedication and service of the volunteers.

2018 National Crime Victims' Service Awards Tribute Video

Watch this video to learn more about the Victim Services Unit Volunteers, Travis County Sheriff's Office, 2018 recipient of the Volunteer for Victims Award.