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Volunteers sought for new Lapeer County Victim Services Unit



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May 08, 2019
LAPEER COUNTY — The Lapeer County Sheriff's Office is starting a Victim Services Unit and is currently seeking professional, dedicated and compassionate Volunteer Advocates. The Lapeer County Victim Services Unit (VSU) is a trained group of Advocates under the direction of the Lapeer County Sheriff's Office and the Michigan Sheriff's Association.

The VSU is dedicated to helping victims, survivors and their loved ones; work through a crisis or crime. VSU are the helping hands of police, fire and medical personnel. Their presence frees authorities to do their job without leaving victims alone or feeling ignored. Their objective is to assist and avoid any further victimization.

The Victims Services Unit is designed to comfort and help victims immediately after an incident by providing short-term crisis intervention. Having no previous experience in traumatic events, most victims feel lost and in need of guidance.

VSU will offer answers to such common questions as what happens next, how to make funeral preparations, why an autopsy is needed, why a crime scene takes so long to process and who will guide them through the court system if needed. Referrals can also be made to appropriate agencies and services within the community.

On scene, VSU plays a vital role by lending support and assisting victims and witnesses through the initial shock of trauma. VSU can separate victims from the scene of an investigation while maintaining a link to officers for victim's questions and concerns. At a secondary site, VSU can stay after the deputies leave to work with victims to pull a support system of close friends, family or church personnel into place.

When is a VSU Advocate Requested?

•Homicide, suicide, or any death or serious injury

•Serious traffic accidents where injuries occur

•Traumatic home invasions (especially those involving senior citizens)

•Death notifications

•House fires

•Natural disasters

•Missing children or the elderly

•Unexpected natural deaths

•Whenever requested

If you would like to become a VSU Volunteer, please stop by the Lapeer County Sheriff's Office, 3231 John Conley Dr., Lapeer MI 48446 to pick up a Volunteer/Advocate Application. There will be a background check conducted as well as an interview process.

If you have any questions please contact Undersheriff Jeremy Howe at jhowe@lapeercounty.org or 810-245-1322.

• • • • •

Editor's note: Undersheriff Jeremy Howe provided additional details about the new Victim Services Unit being launched in Lapeer County.

TCT: What are the origins of the Victim Services Unit program?

Howe: In 1985, Michigan passed the Crime Victims Act and in 1988, the Act became Article 1, Section 24 of the Michigan State Constitution. The National Sheriff's Association then took the lead role in the issue of promoting victim/witness rights. Shortly thereafter, the Michigan Sheriff's Association began to offer the program to Sheriff's Offices all across the state. Although the program is new to Lapeer County, it has actually been utilized for decades.

TCT: Why do you think it's important to bring this service to Lapeer County?

Howe: The Sheriff and I are always looking at different things that we can do to improve our service to the community. One area that we thought could be improved was assisting families during a traumatic incident. We felt that we could do more to get the victims and their families short term crisis management help and assist them during and immediately after what is typically the worst moment of their lives.

TCT: What kind of training will required to become a VSU volunteer?

Howe: The volunteer/advocates will be provided, at no cost, three days of training and must have an additional 12 hours of training yearly. The VSU here in Lapeer County will have monthly meetings with an educational component to every meeting.

TCT: Do you hope that people with a particular background or experience will volunteer?

Howe: We want advocates that truly care about the people in their community and are willing to drop everything they are doing to respond to an incident where short-term crisis management is needed. That person could be anyone, college degrees or not. I know there are plenty of people in Lapeer County that match that description.

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