December 9, 2019

Police Department Secures Grant for Full-Time Crime Victim Specialist

Having identified victim assistance as an area for improvement, the Bellaire Police Department jumped at the opportunity and successfully applied for federal funding to enhance its capabilities.  Bellaire is one of just 36 communities nationwide selected to participate in the 2019 Law Enforcement-Based Victim Specialist Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice through its Office for Victims of Crime.  The $214,636 grant will fully fund a Crime Victim Specialist position for three years.

As is common in cities of our size, victim assistance has until now been a part-time assignment in the Police Department.  The function is currently being performed by a records clerk, in addition to her regular duties, and by the detectives handling each case.  Having a full-time Crime Victim Specialist dedicated to the role will not only improve victim services, but will also free up police time and resources so they can devote their full attention to solving crimes and catching the offenders.

State law mandates that every local law enforcement agency designate a crime victim liaison for victims of more serious crimes, including sexual assault; kidnapping; aggravated robbery; human trafficking; and injury to a child, the elderly or disabled; and for others injured or killed as a result of criminal conduct.  Fortunately in Bellaire we don’t experience many violent crimes, but for victims of lesser offenses for which support services aren’t mandated, we haven’t always been able to meet their needs as effectively as we’d like.  This new full-time position will help fill that gap.

The Crime Victim Specialist will be there to escort victims and their family members through the criminal justice system, to advise them of their rights and the options available to them.  They’ll walk them through the legal process, coordinate with providers of counseling and other services, accompany victims to court, and assist with the preparation of victim impact statements and crime victim compensation forms.  They’ll also serve as a direct link to the Department throughout the investigation, to facilitate the flow of information and keep victims updated as their cases progress.  The Crime Victim Specialist will often respond to the scene to provide emotional support and guidance, from a civilian rather than police perspective.

Beyond providing victim services after the fact, there’s an important public education aspect to the job.  The Crime Victim Specialist will present information and training to residents on crime prevention and how not to become a victim, and raise awareness of the resources available in our area.  He or she will ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and will complete the periodic reporting requirements associated with the grant.

As this particular grant is limited to three years and is non-renewable, the Police Department will look to sustain the Crime Victim Specialist position with future funding under the federal Victims of Crime Act grant program, administered locally by the Houston-Galveston Area Council.  Failing that, the position would terminate, but our command staff are confident that over the next three years it will show its worth and we’ll be able to justify its continuation as a grant-supported service enhancement.