FUNCTIONS OF THE POSITION
Through a highly involved and analytical self-assessment, the City of Salisbury determined the necessity for a more structured means in addressing the needs and concerns of victims and witnesses of crime. The department found that the Criminal Justice System is so complex and involved, that often it becomes difficult to devote time to address the sensitive needs of victims and witnesses. When an individual is victimized, they are met with a crisis that is outside the range of their normal life experiences. Crime impacts the emotional, physical and financial well being and creates a level of uncertainty and despair. These affects are disturbing, even traumatizing, to some individuals. The needs are far too complex and require large amounts of time to handle if you are going to effectively serve the victim/witness. Time that is generally not available on a regular basis.
In an effort to alleviate this problem, the plan to implement a Victim Advocate position into our Crime Control Plan was determined. After determining the importance and feasibility of the position, it was given a dedicated spot in the Salisbury Police Department’s Strategic Plan. It was decided the position be filled by a sworn law enforcement officer, simply due to the knowledge of the Criminal Justice System. The position would be designed to be a resource of information for victims and witnesses and to act as a support mechanism for the emotional, physical and financial impacts of crime. The individual serving in the role of Victim Advocate aids victims and witnesses to restore a sense of normalcy after experiencing a crisis situation, while decreasing fear through providing a knowledge base of the Criminal Justice System.
The Victim Advocate also satisfies the departments’ requirements to comply with North Carolina State legislation pertaining to the North Carolina Victims’ Rights Act. This provision of law is designed to keep victims/witnesses informed and protected. The Victim Advocate must maintain an extensive knowledge of the law and the processes involved in dealing with victims/witnesses. A detailed list of community services is compiled and updated on a regular basis for distribution to victims, witnesses and city personnel.
The Victim Advocate must be able to respond to the scene of a crisis situation and provided emotional and immediate needs (medical services, clothes, and emergency contact) support. After initial contact, follow up assessments are conducted to determine if additional outside services need to be contacted. The Victim Advocate then contacts the appropriate service provider from the compiled list and complete a referral.
In addition to the above, the Victim Advocate may accompany individuals to court, medical appointments and other special requirements/events in attempts to provide moral support. The Victim Advocate is responsible, with the assistance of an available police chaplain, for death notifications. As part of departmental policy, the Victim Advocate is required to conduct quality assurance surveys with victims and witnesses of crime. These surveys are collected and the results presented to the department for evaluation and represent additional department assessment tools.
The Victim Advocate serves multiple functions within the department and has a great deal of responsibility.