Victim support service programs offer direct assistance to individuals affected by crime, supporting their recovery, and guiding them through the criminal justice process. These services address both emotional and physical needs, aiding survivors in stabilizing their lives post-victimization. The programs help victims comprehend and engage with the criminal justice system while prioritizing their safety and security.
Integral to these services is communication that may range from alerting survivors about helpful resources to providing investigation updates to notifications about their case. As we discussed in our previous blog, having easy access to relevant information and resources helps them from feeling isolated, silenced or ignored. Providing updates has typically been conducted in person, by phone, or by mail. These channels do not always offer real time notifications and can be difficult to maintain. Our methods of communication have significantly changed as well. Fortunately for public safety agencies, a new generation of automated services used in the private sector enables agencies to enhance their victim communications that is easier to manage.
Victim Services and Communications
Requesting emergency service can be confusing for community members especially after an incident and for survivors. Better communication with both groups improves transparency, builds trust, and provides support. Those affected by a criminal act require additional updates during the investigation and prosecution phases. Non-profits and other organizations also have resources to assist the public during their time of need that agencies can share with victims.
Another factor affecting victim communications is the increase in non-emergency requests. Some calls are administrative callbacks asking for information and updates about their request for service or investigation. These non-emergency calls, often 40% of call center volume, continues to strain Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), adding pressure to call-takers who must quickly assess each situation. This presents challenges for efficiency and staff retention. Of course, long wait times for survivors is not ideal because agencies still want them to feel like they were treated well. Positive interactions leave a lasting impact on individuals' perceptions. An effective victim notification system contributes to the agency's commitment to community service and support.
A U.S. Office of Justice Programs study noted “the emergence of victim notification as a national concern emanated, in large part, from two tragic deaths [in 1989 and 1994].” The focus of these first alert systems during the 1990s and early 2000s was to mainly provide notifications about inmate releases via phone calls. With the advent of electronic communications and mobile devices, agencies could also send by email. However, many of those systems still required some level of manual effort to produce and didn’t always follow agency workflows which added to staff workloads.
Additionally, certain more recent incidents and changing public perception have elevated victim care from a “nice to have” to a requirement. In the U.S., states like Texas and Arizona have regulations in place that solidify the rights of survivors and highlight the need for new, innovative approaches. For example, Texas outlines these laws in its Crime Victims' Rights document, notably that “these rights include, but are not limited to, the right to protection, information, notification, to be heard, to participate in the criminal justice system, and to seek financial remedies.” Arizona also clearly outlines the rights crime victims have within the state, further making evident the importance of agencies advocating for these individuals.
A Better Approach to Victim Notification
Considering the challenges discussed above, agencies have continued to adapt their victim support programs to work in today’s environment. These adjustments include enhancing communications by adding better notification automations to survivors or their relatives via email or text message. The information conveyed typically covers case-related updates, such as:
incident report creation
case number assignment
case status changes
The victim notification system often interfaces with one of the following: law enforcement agency's records management system, district attorney’s case management systems, or jail management systems. These integrations offer configurable triggers for direct messaging, allow attachment of informational materials, and enable case status checks. They may also provide multilingual notifications and a survey tool for soliciting feedback from survivors, which are ideal for holistic victim care.
For example, Versaterm SPIDR Tech integrates with most existing RMS and CAD systems, making it straightforward to implement automation triggers based on an agency’s own processes. Once an officer submits a crime report, the platform can automatically begin sending follow-up emails and text messages that will keep a victim or victims informed as the investigation progresses. This application requires no separate application download, creation of an account, or registration to receive these automated updates – only regular mobile phone messaging services or access to email. These types of features enhance the efficiency and responsiveness of victim notification processes for the agencies while delivering outstanding service to survivors.
Enhancing public safety services involves modernizing an agency’s community engagement capabilities, offering improved communication channels with crime victims. Innovative solutions streamline operations without overburdening existing resources. Automation tools play a key role in sending timely incident and case notifications by email or text following emergency calls. Providing information in preferred formats minimizes the need for community members and survivors to make repeated callbacks for updates, information, or resources. These advancements aim to simplify interactions and better serve the needs of the community while optimizing the efficiency of public safety agencies.
To learn more about Versaterm’s SPIDR Tech and its victim notification capabilities, explore our case studies below or schedule a meeting with an expert today.