Earlier this week, as reported by Wood TV News Channel 8, the Kalamazoo County Commission approved a budget reallocation to make room for a victim's advocate to join the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

The allocation was requested by Chief Vernon Coakley who was seeking enough funds for a full-time victim's advocate to be added to the staff of KDPS. According to Coakley last year the KDPS responded to:

  • 14 homicides
  • 75 non-fatal shootings
  • 777 suicide/attempt calls
  • 181 Crisis Intervention Team calls

The point was raised that most of those statistics involved situations with multiple victims. And instead of, "essentially just handing out a phone number," as Coakley put it, their goal is to have a real person there who can advocate for victims in real time.

Here's my first question. Going by last year's statistics there were approximately 1,047 incidents that would require a victim's advocate. If only one position is being added how will that one person handle that amount of cases?

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It's a concern that was shared by Vice Mayor Patrese Griffin who wondered about putting all of this on one person instead of using the funds to hire people, "already doing the work." Whatever that means.

Personally, I think having an advocate in place that can take the concerns of a victim and clearly communicate them to law enforcement is essential, even desperately needed. I'm not in law enforcement. If I were the victim of a crime I would have no idea about procedures, the proper "lingo", or even the right questions to ask. That liaison, if you will, could help sort all of that out. However, I don't know how effective one singular role will be. Especially when crime doesn't stick to a 9am-5pm schedule.

Regardless of the underlying concerns, the budget reallocation was approved. Coakley said he hopes to have the position filled within 6 months.

Further questions about the victim's advocacy role should be directed to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. Find their contact information here.

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