Public Information Officer
SHERIFF JOHNSON PRAISES VICTIM ADVOCATE PROGRAM
In just its first year in existence, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s Victim Advocate Program helped more than a thousand crime victims work through their grief and anger, navigate the judicial system and get their lives back on track. On Tuesday, Sheriff Ben Johnson lauded the success of the program along with three Sheriff’s Office employees who are responsible for helping to meet the physical and emotional needs of crime victims.
“What a terrific job they’re doing,” Sheriff Johnson remarked Tuesday morning as he bestowed commendations on the agency’s Victim Advocate Program Coordinator, Sergeant Jim Morgan, and victim advocates Kate Blanton and Pat Taylor. “I’m real proud of the job they’re doing tending to the needs of victims.”
The Victim Advocate Program provides around-the-clock assistance to crime victims in the Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction. The services include everything from emotional support, shelter referrals to victims of domestic violence and assistance with filing compensation claims to assistance in obtaining injunctions, making funeral arrangements or coordinating transportation needs. While assisting victims, the advocates free up deputies at crime scenes to tend to law enforcement needs. Disbanded by the previous administration, Sheriff Johnson made restoration of the Victim Advocate Program a top priority upon taking office in January 2001. Less than eight months later, the Sheriff’s Office secured a state grant to revive the program, which has been operational since January 2002. “The program has been a tremendous asset to the entire community,” said Sheriff Johnson.
Since last year, the VAP Program has assisted more than 1,100 victims. Assistance has been rendered to elder victims, victims of domestic violence and victims involved in severe impact cases, including family members of homicide victims. The Victim Advocate Program also has successfully recouped more than $107,000 in state compensation funds that have been disbursed to victims to help defray the costs associated with medical expenses, burial and lost wages. State compensation funds obtained through the assistance of the VAP Program also have assisted elderly victims to replace stolen property.
“A relatively new unit, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office’s Victim Advocate Program has earned the respect of the law enforcement community and human services network throughout the 7th Judicial Circuit,” states a citation honoring the program. “The Victim Advocate Program’s exceptional performance and commitment to serving the needs of crime victims reflect the highest standards of professionalism.”