The Need for a Robust Victim Assistance Program
By Dr. Jade Pumphrey, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University
*This article is part of In Public Safety’s October focus on domestic violence awareness*
Victim assistance programs (VAPs) are a critical component of any law enforcement agency. These services protect and promote the interests of victims, witnesses, families, and the community and provide support during and after an incident. To have robust victim services, agencies must work closely with community organizations and seek local volunteers.
Maricopa Police Department’s Victim Assistance Program
The Maricopa Police Department in Maricopa, Arizona handles a number of family disturbance calls, many of which are domestic violence related. Their VAPs program offers on-scene crisis support services and further support initiatives including:
- Educational support on victims’ rights
- Assistance with the state’s victim compensation program
- General information about police investigations in the criminal justice process
- Emotional support to victims as they navigate the criminal justice system
The agency also uses community volunteers to assist with the program. These volunteers provide victims with unique programs available to them including:
- Victim compensation
- Home loan programs
- Address confidentiality
- Other referral services
VAPs Collaboration and Training
It is important that volunteers and law enforcement agencies work closely together. Volunteers regularly meet with local law enforcement to discuss issues and concerns related to violence in the community. Volunteers receive a practical education about the extent of crime in their communities as well as comprehensive training on how to assist in a victim assistance volunteer capacity.
Law enforcement agencies must foster a relationship with community volunteers in order to effectively assist victims after a crime. Agencies cannot solely provide such support, so it’s important to ensure that a robust and responsive VAP is in place.
About the Author: Dr. Jade Pumphrey has worked in higher education since 2006 and has taught more than 65 different criminal justice courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University. Dr. Pumphrey obtained an AS in General Science, BS in Criminal Justice, MS in Forensic Science Investigations and a PhD in Public Safety/Criminal Justice with a 4.0 G.P.A. In addition to currently working in higher education as a faculty member, Dr. Pumphrey also volunteers for her local police department as an on-call, victim assistant.