The Red Deer City Victim Services Unit recently recognized an important milestone – 25 years serving the community.
“There are currently 28 volunteers with the Victim Services Unit in Red Deer and there are currently 10 applicants waiting on security clearances,” said Const. Jody Young, program manager with the Red Deer City Victim Services Unit, adding that volunteers have to be 18 years of age. “To become a volunteer with Victim Services is sometimes a lengthy process. They have to be able to get an Enhanced Reliability Security Clearance. That can take anywhere from four months to over a year.
“That for us is one of the biggest challenges. We have people interested in the program, but they have to be able to get that clearance and we have to maintain them while they wait.”
Volunteers also have to do an intensive online course in which they have four months to complete before being accepted into the program.
“It is so crucial to acknowledge the contributions of our volunteers and they are very much valued and are the backbone of the program,” said Young. “They are a very giving, hard working group of individuals who give their time and listening ears to those in need during and after traumatic situations. They treat everyone with respect and kindness no matter what the situation and the compassion they show the people we serve is an inspiration to us all.”
In terms of what volunteers respond to, Young said volunteers deal with all crime types as well as sudden deaths and next of kin notification. “In respect to attending on scene that is dealt with on a case by case basis. The officers on scene have to assess the risk to the volunteers,” she said. “We have been on scene for things like robberies and sexual assaults. We may be called to what we consider the primary scene or secondary location which is typically at the detachment or the hospital.”
When out on location, volunteers wear a GPS tracking device. “It’s considered one additional layer of safety.”
There are three shifts a day Monday to Friday that Young said volunteers can choose to donate their time to. “That’s really where the follow up with victims is done.”
Referrals to RDCVSU are typically made by the officer on scene; however, individuals can self-refer to the program by contacting the Red Deer City Victim Services Unit.
Young added there are many benefits to the community that the Victim Services Unit offers including providing victims of crime or tragedy, witnesses and their family members with non-judgmental emotional support, a listening ear and practical assistance to lessen the impact of crime and trauma; providing information on the justice system; programs pertaining to victims of crime; crime prevention; community agencies and other resources; facilitating a victim’s access to case-specific information which may include status of the police investigation; charges laid against the offender; protective orders; outcome of court appearance; custodial status of the convicted offender and length of sentence; connecting victims with community resources such as counselling, support groups, financial assistance and housing; assisting victims with information and/or in completing documentation and application forms for Victim Assistance Programs such as victim impact statements; restitution and financial benefits and providing preparation and accompaniment to crime victims who have to testify in court.
“The reality in responding to complaints is the police have a role and a job that they play. They are never a good situation – by us having Victim Services go behind them, we’re hoping that we’re going to make that situation or that time in their life a little less traumatic for them,” said Young.