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Victim Services in Rural Law Enforcement
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        NCJ 232748

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Overview of Activities

Program Variations

This section explores differences among the sites:

New or Enhanced Program?

Six sites used the OVC grant to expand their existing victim service initiatives.

  • The Monroe and Montgomery County Sheriff's Offices added staff to their victim service programs and increased resources available to victims and program staff.
  • The Mahnomen County Sheriff's Office expanded on its basic victim services to create a more formal victim-witness services program.
  • The Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office hired a victim advocate for its existing victim assistance initiative to develop a rural satellite office.
  • As an alternative to having in-house victim services, the Valley Police Department partnered with the regional YWCA to expand its victim advocacy program to all crime victims in Valley.
  • The Maine State Police, whose site encompassed both the Aroostook and Washington County Sheriff's Offices, built on an existing collaboration with a regional social service program to streamline the victim service referral process for officers in these jurisdictions and to provide support and information to victims referred by them.

Eleven sites created new programs to improve law enforcement response to rural crime victims: the Calera Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, Hartford Police Department, Luverne Police Department, Mobile County Sheriff's Office, Pell City Police Department, Pinal County Sheriff's Office, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Police Department, and the Ross County, Siskiyou County, and Washington County (Alabama) Sheriff's Offices.

Most sought to provide prompt assistance to victims in the immediate aftermath of a crime, followup support, and information and assistance to facilitate their healing and participation in the investigation. Many of these sites viewed their programs as a much-needed link between the law enforcement agency, victims, and community service providers.

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Use of Volunteers

Nine sites integrated a volunteer component into their initiatives: Aroostook and Washington Counties, Cherokee County, Dona Ana County, Mahnomen County, Monroe County, Pell City, Pinal County, Ross County, and Siskiyou County. Whereas most sites used volunteers to supplement provision of services or to assist with administration, Pinal County used them as primary service providers. Some agencies sought specific types of volunteers—Cherokee County, for example, recruited volunteers with work experience in criminal justice and social service agencies. Siskiyou County, on the other hand, developed a volunteer-based family violence response team to respond to victims of these crimes.

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As required by the grant, every site created services to respond to the needs of all crime victims. In addition, some sites identified specific types of crimes, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and child and elder abuse, which occurred with high or increased frequency in their jurisdictions. These sites often developed strategies to improve response to victims of these crimes.

For example, Mahnomen County's Victim-Witness Services Program worked with the county clerk in developing a new court procedure that would assist individuals petitioning to dismiss existing orders for protection. The advisory board for Siskiyou County's Victim Service Unit included groups that advocated for older adults because the unit wanted to address a gap in services for this population.

The grant programs also served various populations. For example, Dona Ana County's initiative responded in large part to the needs of the county's growing Mexican migrant farm worker population, many of whom were undocumented. Ross County served a predominantly Appalachian population. Port Gamble S'Klallam and Mahnomen County provided services primarily to Native Americans.

Some sites had small populations ranging from about 1,900 to 12,000, including Calera, Hartford, Luverne, Mahnomen County, Pell City, Port Gamble S'Klallam, and Valley. Several comprised multiple towns, such as Cherokee County, Monroe County, Ross County, and Washington County (Alabama). Aroostook and Washington Counties and Siskiyou County had large land masses and sparse populations. Some sites were a mix of rural, urban, and suburban areas, such as Dona Ana County, Mobile County, Montgomery County, and Pinal County. The majority of sites were poor compared with state and national averages, including Aroostook and Washington Counties, Cherokee County, Dona Ana County, Hartford, Luverne, Mahnomen County, Mobile County, Siskiyou County, and Washington County (Alabama). A number had fast growing populations, including Calera, Cherokee County, Dona Ana County, Luverne, Monroe County, Pinal County, and Ross County. The number of residents over age 25 with college degrees ranged from 7 percent to 29 percent across sites.

To a certain extent, demographic variations influenced which services and outreach efforts were identified as project priorities and whether site activities were effective in serving local victims. For example, many residents in Ross County came from a culture that was very private. The Victim Service Unit of the Sheriff's Office initially offered a victim support group but, due to lack of participation, altered its outreach strategy to attending meetings of established support groups in the area to provide project information and to encourage victims to contact the unit for support. In terms of addressing variations in language, Calera, Dona Ana County, Mobile County, and Montgomery County developed literature and services in Spanish.

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Implementation Tasks

The sites' primary activities varied based on the needs identified in their respective community needs assessments. Activities included the following:

  • Establishing a law enforcement-based victim services program and recruiting, hiring, and assigning staff.
  • Seeking the support of law enforcement leaders to implement policy changes.
  • Building relationships between officers and program staff to coordinate victim assistance.
  • Forming partnerships between law enforcement agencies and local victim service and social services agencies to optimize victim services.
  • Creating and coordinating interagency advisory committees to provide guidance to the program.
  • Coordinating training for officers.
  • Seeking out professional development opportunities for in-house victim services staff.
  • Developing materials for victims that are distributed by responding officers and victim services staff.
  • Providing a range of victim services, including those for specific types of victims.
  • Coordinating public education and publicity efforts of the program.
  • Evaluating victims' satisfaction with services and community perceptions of program effectiveness.
  • Participating on local task forces and attending community meetings and events.
  • Working with law enforcement leaders to plan for program sustainability.
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