Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

Spotlight on Victims Services Coordinators

When you think of careers in criminal justice, usually what comes to mind are the more visible careers, such as police officers, lawyers and judges. Because of this, some of the more behind-the-scenes positions in the realm of criminal justice get overlooked. One of the most overlooked careers in criminal justice is the victims services coordinator. Even so, these criminal justice professionals play an important role in law enforcement offices throughout the U.S.

The role of the victims services coordinator differs from that of a traditional law enforcement officer in that their focus is usually on the victims of a crime rather than the perpetrators of a crime. They also work with witnesses of crimes, survivors of tragedies and their significant others. Because victims services coordinators work with such a vulnerable population, they must be able to demonstrate empathy, compassion and understanding day in and day out. Many have even been known to offer a shoulder to cry on from time to time.

When a crime occurs, particularly a violent crime such as a murder or assault, the victims services coordinator meets with the victim(s) of the crime to assess their needs and arrange to meet those needs if possible. For instance, if a woman reports to the local sheriff’s office that her husband has been beating her, a victims services coordinator might help arrange for her to move into a women’s shelter while sheriff’s deputies work to put the abuser behind bars.

A victims services coordinator’s other responsibilities might include arranging for a victim to receive counseling, helping people apply for crime victim compensation benefits and keeping witnesses abreast of their case status and trail date scheduling. They also educate victims on their rights and encourage victims to testify in court against their abusers, as many are afraid or intimidated to do so.

Sometimes victims services coordinators also help meet the short-term needs of victims of tragedies. For instance, if someone’s home burns down and a family loses all of their possessions, a victims services coordinator may arrange to put the family up temporarily in a motel or even purchase them a change of clothing. If these provisions are not in a jurisdiction’s budget, the coordinator may ensure the family gets connected with a nonprofit organization that can help them.

Finally, a victims services coordinator is also usually heavily involved in community outreach and crime prevention. That means they play a major role in educating the general public about issues such as domestic abuse, sexual abuse and child abuse.

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