CCSO Victim & Senior Advocacy Unit Earns National Award
Collier County Sheriff's Office
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s victim assistance program was honored with a national award Thursday.
The CCSO Victim & Senior Advocacy Unit was named a winner of the 2019 Tadini Bacigalupi Jr. Outstanding Program Award by the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA). The annual award recognizes a distinguished victim service program
The award was announced at the NOVA Voices of Advocacy Reception in Washington, D.C., in observance of the annual National Crime Victim Rights Week, held April 7-13.
CCSO was one of two law enforcement agencies with victim assistance programs chosen to receive the award from a field of more than 20 nominees. The CCSO Victim & Senior Advocacy Unit’s (VSAU) hard-working attitude, dedication and professionalism to the victims of crime, the elderly and the community will be spotlighted when the award is formally presented during the 45th annual NOVA Training Conference July 22-25 in Phoenix.
“This is a richly deserved honor for our Victim & Senior Advocacy Unit,” said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. “The members of this unit work tirelessly to support crime victims and our senior population.”
The goal of the VSAU is to guide victims through the most difficult experience that a person may face and help them return to a sense of normalcy they experienced before the victimization.
In 2018, the VSAU assisted 5,526 victims. The six-person unit, augmented by an in-house team of 10 agency members, are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist victims of all violent crimes and elderly victims of both violent and non-violent crimes.
The VSAU has a distinctive approach to assisting victims: Detectives or patrol deputies can request that an advocate respond to the crime scene and immediately provide crisis intervention assistance to victims. If an advocate is not required on scene, a victim is still provided support and services because every report is reviewed daily to determine what services may be needed.
The unit’s advocacy support reflects Collier County’s culturally diverse population with bilingual full-time and on-call members. The agency’s victim rights and domestic violence brochures are available in Spanish and Creole.
Services provided by the unit include assisting victims with crimes compensation applications, explaining various aspects of the judicial process; assisting with injunction for protection applications/hearings; accompanying victims to hearings and trials; and, providing resources and referrals for long-term counseling and support.
The program nurtures many strong community partnerships that are critical to meeting the victim’s long-term care needs. Full-time victim advocates are deputized by the Clerk of Courts, which allow them to provide a unique service to homebound victims by responding to the home to accept the injunction petition and submitting it on their behalf.
Another distinctive feature of the VSAU program is senior advocacy.
Two full-time members specialize in elderly issues including elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, crime prevention education targeting the elderly, dementia, and local services and resources for this specialized population. The senior advocacy component offers the rare opportunity to prevent the victimization of elderly residents, whether it is assisting the state Department of Children and Families with rescuing a neglected elderly victim, educating the senior population on scam/fraud prevention, or connecting seniors or their caregivers to local resources.
Senior advocates assisted more than 600 elderly victims in 2018. All full-time VSAU members strive to stay abreast of new laws and best practices that help the victims they serve. To enhance services to the community, members of the unit provide training to first responders throughout the county including other law enforcement agencies, fire and emergency medical services on topics such as crisis response and working with dementia patients. For example, the unit worked with the local Alzheimer’s Support Network to bring the Virtual Dementia Tour to the CCSO substations to help deputies understand and recognize how dementia effects an elderly person’s ability to follow directions and comprehend instructions. Each advocate holds the Florida Victim Services and the NOVA National Advocate Credential designations.