Solomon explains SPD's Victim Support Team

Southwest Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Solomon is out with his October Newsletter, and this time it's all about the all-volunteer Victim Support Team, who have helped victims of domestic violence since 1996. In addition to sharing crime prevention tips on a monthly basis, Solomon is also a block watch expert. If you are interested in forming one, his contact information is found below the newsletter.

Dear Community Friends,

Spotlight: SPD’s Victim Support Team

On Sunday, October 13, 2013, Seattle Police Department’s Domestic Violence Victim Support Team (VST) volunteers were called out by an SPD Officer to give support and services to a mother whose son had been taken by her abusive husband, in violation of a No Contact Order. The VST volunteers provided crisis intervention, gave domestic violence resources, helped the victim identify safe housing, and created a safety plan. They also provided the victim with a confidential cell phone, as her personal cell phone had been damaged in the incident. An Amber Alert was issued for the child. Later, after the suspect was found and the child was recovered, the same VST volunteers were called out again to transport and reunite the child back with his mother.

So, just who or what is a Victim Support Team and what do they do? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The Seattle Police Department's Domestic Violence Victim Support Team (VST) program is a unique partnership between community members and police to address and prevent domestic violence. The program is designed to address the gap in services to domestic violence victims that exists between the time patrol officers respond to a 9-1-1 call and take a report, to the time advocates, detectives and prosecutors make contact with the victim for follow up.

Since its inception in 1996, the VST volunteer program is an example of innovative and effective integration of volunteers within a police department. VST has become a model program providing services to victims, developing community partnerships, and supporting the work of patrol officers and follow-up detectives. These community volunteers respond to secured crime scenes to assist victims of domestic violence and their children. The volunteers provide crisis intervention and support to domestic violence victims during the critical time following domestic violence incidents during weekend hours. This is the time when domestic violence calls are the greatest and when emergency resources can be most difficult to access.

VST volunteers offer victims assistance with identifying their options to increase their safety and help with understanding the next steps in the Criminal Justice System. They offer shelter referrals, community resources, emergency supplies (clothing, diapers, food, cell phones) and transportation.

The VST may use and offer several resources during a call-out. For example, the team recently responded to an incident that involved an immigrant family who only spoke Spanish. When the team arrived, the officer explained to them that the suspect had beaten the mother in front of her four children and had kept them hostage in their own home for days. The victim was not allowed to speak with her neighbors or go to the store to buy the family food. VST spoke to the victim using the AT&T Language Line and realized that the family had not eaten for over a day. Using emergency vouchers, VST was able to give the family a supply of diapers, food and baby food. VST secured a hotel room and explained the safety procedures necessary for the family to stay safe throughout the weekend. The woman was extremely thankful and eager to know where to turn next for support and resources. The following day, VST connected her with a community domestic violence agency assisting the Latino community, who found the family a safe place to stay.

Each VST volunteer undergoes 50 hours of initial training which includes topics such as Crisis intervention, Domestic Violence 101, Effects of Domestic Violence on Children, Stalking; and Volunteer Safety. Each year VST volunteers work over 6,000 hours and respond to the needs of over 470 victims of violence. Their efforts have saved the Department countless hours of follow-up and have directly enhanced our response to victims.

VST accepts donations through the Seattle Police Foundation, a 501c3 tax exempt organization. The program’s greatest needs are emergency resources for victims, such as bus tickets, grocery store gift certificates, diapers, locksmiths, hotel vouchers, and emergency relocation assistance (Greyhound or Amtrak tickets).

For more information about volunteering with the Victim Support Team, visit their website at www.seattle.gov/police/vst
Thank you for all you do for your neighborhoods. Until next time, Take Care and Stay Safe!

Mark Solomon, Crime Prevention Coordinator, mark.solomon@seattle.gov, 206.386.9766

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