Vancouver Police’s Victim Services Unit receives international award for leadership

THE Vancouver Police Victim Services Unit has won an international award in recognition of their significant service to victims and their families.

The 2017 Leadership in Victim Services award, given by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, recognizes law enforcement agencies that demonstrate excellence in providing innovative service to crime victims, and an organizational philosophy of placing victims at the centre of their problem-solving efforts.

Since 1984, the Vancouver Police Victim Services Unit has been working with crime victims and witnesses. The unit was originally staffed with mostly volunteers, and now employs six full-time specialized staff and 15 casual on-call staff with degrees in the social sciences, and who have considerable experience in crisis intervention and trauma informed practices. They respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Unit is constantly exploring innovative ways of reaching out to serve the many diverse population groups within Vancouver, and has earned a reputation locally, nationally, and internationally, as a leader in the victim services field.

In 2016, Victim Services welcomed a trained intervention trauma dog. The handler and IK-9 have been a huge success in helping victims and witnesses cope with stress related to critical incidents. They also attend court with vulnerable clients, such as children, when they are testifying, calming them during an extremely difficult time.

This year, two members of the Unit were instrumental in forming a Civilian Critical Intervention Stress Management Team, designed to assist VPD employees affected by exposure to critical incidents in the workplace.

“We feel very fortunate to be part of a police department that places such importance on the services we provide,” says Linda Thorp, Manager of the Victim Services Unit. “Our staff work so hard trying to make difficult times a little bit easier for victims and witnesses. It’s nice to be recognized for that.”