Office for Victims of Crime
Community-level Replication Guide
 September 2012 Text size: decrease font size increase font size   Send e-mail icon

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Step 2. Assessing the Community’s Needs

The focus group participants were so happy to have a chance to express themselves. They completely understood how disabilities and vulnerabilities and crime work together, and they were really happy someone was looking at that.
—Linda Riddle
Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Duluth, Minnesota

You can’t fix a problem until you know what the problem is. In a nutshell, that is the purpose of the community needs assessment—to find out the ways that your agency and community partners can improve services for and responses to crime victims with disabilities.

A needs assessment can be as simple or as complex as resources allow. At its most basic, it is a process—one that begins with a set of questions:

  • What do you want to know?
  • Who has the information you seek?
  • What are the most effective strategies for reaching the right people and getting them to discuss the issues with you?

Consider the audience, the different ways to gather information, and just what it is you’re measuring.

The pilot sites set out to gather information that would give them a better idea of the needs of crime victims with disabilities in their communities. For this step, as with every other, the sites leaned heavily on direct input from persons with disabilities. Hearing firsthand feedback from crime victims with disabilities had a powerful impact on the partners’ understanding of the degree of the problem.

Although their efforts were successful, the process was never as simple or easy as it might seem. Much thought and discussion took place before the first contacts were made or the first surveys were completed. Assessments that produce the most relevant and useful feedback begin with careful planning, goal setting, and a design.

Step 2 involves the following tasks: