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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Westminster’s Victim Advocates Provide Compassion When Needed Most

Westminster’s Victim Advocates Provide Compassion When Needed Most

 

“We all talk about our first call, how fearful it was,” remembered Drew Hogan, victim services coordinator with the City of Westminster. “The first call I did was a bank robbery... I was sitting there working with a girl who had been confronted with a gun during the robbery and she was very tearful. Behind me there were three FBI agents taking notes. What they wanted to hear was, through an emotional conversation, any new information that might come out and help the case.” 

When a crime occurs in Westminster, officers from the Westminster Police Department answer the call. When victims of crime need support, Westminster’s Victim Services Unit responds. This crucial service provides guidance and resources to victims of certain crimes who are dealing with trauma or whose safety may be in jeopardy.  

Victim advocates work as partners with law enforcement, taking a victim-centered approach. They help get information about cases and provide services such as sourcing financial assistance, finding victims safe places to stay, and guiding them through investigations and court proceedings. 

Much of the support offered by advocates comes from federal funding, as well as donations and efforts from volunteers. Westminster is one of just a few cities along the Front Range with a dedicated victim advocacy team housed within the police department.  

“Outside of Colorado a lot of police departments rely on nonprofit agencies,” Hogan said. “It’s really just Colorado and a couple other states that start the victim advocacy at the police level. Even here in Colorado some may have a single victim advocate that works with the police department, and then they still have to rely on a lot of volunteers.” 

While Westminster’s Victim Services Unit is comprised of a handful of staff victim advocates, well-trained volunteers provide over 10,000 hours of night and weekend coverage. Their work enables the unit to connect victims with services 24/7.  

Hogan said having a dedicated team of advocates within the police department benefits the community greatly by streamlining the process of helping people when time is critical. 

“Having us at the crime scene starts the support for the victim immediately,” she said. “People who have support through trauma heal faster, and actually have an opportunity for healing resources that they might not have if you wait for a victim’s rights case to get filed through the district attorney’s office. That can take months.” 

Emina Acosta has been a staff victim advocate for five years. She said she finds the job incredibly rewarding and encourages other people who are interested in this type of work to take the leap. 

“I serve victims of crime. I serve a vulnerable population, and I find great pride and joy in being a voice for those who need it most,” Acosta said. “People are overwhelmed with the support, empathy, and understanding that they can get from this unit as well as all the other services like resources, guidance and day-to-day support until they get on their feet.” 

The volunteers who choose to work with the Victim Services Unit receive intensive training and are certified in victim advocacy before they take their first call. While volunteers come from all walks of life, Acosta said she sees a common thread. 

“Our volunteers are kind people,” she said. “People that can express and provide empathy, people who are understanding and want to give. What they have in common is that they are kind people who want to help.” 

VOLUNTEER WITH US
If you are interested in joining Westminster’s Victim Services Unit as a volunteer, please call 303-658-4210. For more information about the program click here.

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