Victim Services Unit
The Michigan Sheriff's Association (MSA) in cooperation with local Sheriff Offices have created a program to provide on the scene support and aid to victims or witnesses to a crime, serious accidents, etc. Specially trained volunteers are contacted by Deputies responding to or at the scene of an incident and the volunteers respond where needed to assist victims or witnesses. They often can assist officers by staying with those victims or witnesses in need of assistance or comforting while the officers are free to conduct their investigation. They work as a team, usually in pairs. The Victim Services Unit members can comfort the victim, aid in crisis intervention counseling, arrange for transportation, notify family or friends or even arrange for a babysitter. The victim advocate team members can explain the nature of a victims rights, as well as describing how the justice system works and often accompany victims through the court procedures that may come later. The Victims Service Unit members stay and support the victims long after the officers leave.
Written applications of prospective members for the victim service unit are reviewed by the Sheriff, the local program coordinator selected by the Sheriff, and by a state wide coordinator. A background check is conducted on each and every prospective member and the final candidates are contacted for training. Training consists of an accredited 40 hour course providing members with information on the following:
-An overview of the Criminal Justice system.
-Instruction in Crisis Management.
-Empathetic Communications Techniques.
-A review of Michigan's Crime Victims Rights laws.
Specific guidance in working with a wide array of victims including: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Neglected & Abused Children, and families forced to cope with a loss as a result of Murder, Suicide, or Accidental Death. As part of their training, members are often subject to "Role Playing" to help them cope with actual crisis situations when they occur.
Members are all volunteers and are there for the satisfaction of knowing they have helped someone in need. They give of their time and hard work freely to aid others in need.
During the time of a crisis where Victim Services is needed, the Sheriff Department is the local agency responsible for calling out team members. Members can be called out by the Sheriff's Office at the request of any local police agency, hospital, and ambulance.
These members have provided a much needed service to our area and will continue to respond where and when they are needed. The Muskegon Victim Services Unit are often called out during death investigations including homicides, suicides, and fatal accidents. As the shock wears off and the questions begin, the Victim Services Unit has been there for the family. The Unit provides information about other organizations for assistance.
Being on call for one week a month is demanding both physically and emotionally and we are grateful to the volunteers of our local Victim Services Unit.
For more information contact the Muskegon County Sheriff Office Victim Services Unit Coordinator at 231-724-6351.