Victim's Assistance Unit (VAU)
The Victim Assistance Program is a Unit within the Investigations Division of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. The Unit responds to victims of violent crime and/or their families, victims in crisis, and family survivors in cases of violent and sudden death. Victim Advocates provide 24 hour on-call assistance, are non-sworn, civilian employees and volunteers of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office who are available 365 days a year. These advocates provide outreach and assess the needs of victims, provide information and referrals about resources in the community, victims’ compensation benefits, and education and awareness of victims’ rights. Advocates work in cooperation with other community service provider agencies.
Victim assistance is available to any person who is a victim of any of the crimes falling under Colorado Revised Statutes 24-4.1-302 which includes many of the following crimes listed and other crises to include violent and sudden death occurring within the jurisdiction of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the Fountain Police Department and the Manitou Springs Police Department:
- Sexual Assault
- Child Physical Abuse/Child Sexual Assault
- Crimes against at-risk adults or at-risk juveniles
- Domestic Violence
- A bias-motivated crime
- Retaliation against/Intimidating/Tampering with a victim or witness
- Trafficking in adults or children
- Death of infant or child/S.I.D.S. (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
- Traffic Fatalities/Fatal Accidents
- Unattended death (Physician not present at the time of death)
Victim Advocacy Services
Services are based upon need and delivered without discrimination of age, race, gender, or religion. It is the victim’s right to request or refuse these services.
Victim advocates provide information and referrals to appropriate county agencies. In addition to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, advocates work in conjunction with:
- Fountain Police Dept.
- Manitou Springs Police Dept.
- Colorado Springs Police Dept.
- Colorado State Patrol
- District Attorney Victim/Witness Program (4th Judicial District)
- Other community agencies
Crisis Support Team
Several members of the Victim Assistance Program staff also provide services to emergency service first responders and their families in times of crisis or immediately after a critical incident. Trained advocates can also assist with stress management debriefings through the Southern Colorado Crisis Support Team. Information on Crisis Support Teams locally and statewide can be obtained at (719) 576-1200 or Southern Colorado CST.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office Victim Assistance Program receives funding from a multitude of sources. Of the three paid staff, only the program coordinator’s salary is funded by El Paso County. One full-time victim advocate’s wages are paid for by VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) funds, which are fines collected in the form of victim compensation from defendants at the federal level. The other full-time victim advocate’s wages are paid for by VALE (Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement) funds, which are fines collected from defendants at the state and local levels. The program’s day-to-day operational expenses to include cell phones, printing, desk top supplies, training expenses and other program needs, are also covered by VALE funds.
In 2013, the Victim Assistance Program staff assisted 4,924 primary and secondary victims. This included 318 on-scene assists, 10,876 victim contacts by telephone, in writing, or in person and a total of 13,905 referrals for counseling, victim’s compensation, safe housing and other community resources.
The Victim Assistance Program is staffed with three civilian employees and 15–20 trained and dedicated volunteers. Volunteer advocates gave 465.5 hours of direct service (one to one advocate to victim contact) in 2013. Our volunteer advocates provided 23,012 on-call hours in 2013 and attended 587.5 hours of training. Individuals interested in becoming a volunteer advocate must attend the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer Victim Advocate Training Academy. Classes are generally held every two years and are approximately 90 hours in length.
- Victim advocate volunteers must submit an application to the Victim Assistance Program Coordinator or to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer Coordinator.
- Applicants must complete the Volunteer Victim Advocate Training Academy, and commit one year to the program following the academy.
- Applicants must also successfully pass a background check with criminal history, provide personal references and must pass a CVSA (Computerized Voice Stress Analysis).
- Victim advocate volunteers must complete a ride-along with patrol each year.
- Volunteer advocates are on-call approximately every four to six weeks for a week at a time depending on the number of active volunteers.
- Victim advocate volunteers must be at least 21 years of age.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer victim advocate, contact us at (719) 520-7272 or click here for more information on volunteering in other areas within the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Victim Assistance Program paid and volunteer advocates received the Donald R. Hekkers Community Service Award from the Colorado Springs Fire Department in January 2008. This award was directly related to extraordinary efforts, contributions to the community and service to others during the Castle West Apartment Fire.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Victim Assistance volunteer advocates received the 2008 Adult Group Service Award from the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in April 2008. The volunteer advocate group also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation in April 2008.
In October 2009, the EPSO Victim Assistance Program Coordinator received the 2009 Outstanding Victim Advocate Public Sector Award from the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA.)
Kimberly Barnett, a 20 year EPSO volunteer victim advocate, received the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer of the Year award in 2012.
Teddy Bears and Other Program Resources
The Victim Assistance Program will accept donations of new teddy bears and other new stuffed animals (six to eight inches in height) to be given to victims and witnesses of physical and sexual abuse. These stuffed animals are made available to all patrol deputies, detectives and victim advocates.
If you wish to make a donation of a new stuffed animal, contact the Victim Assistance Program Coordinator at (719) 520-7272.
The Exchange Club of Falcon semi-annually donates quilts and blankets along with new clothing for child victims. Quilts from the Heart also donates hand-made quilts to the program for use with victims traumatized by victimization.
National Victims’ Rights Week
Every year in April, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is recognized and celebrated in various ways. Crime Victims’ Rights Week is to promote awareness of victims’ rights and to acknowledge those that have been victimized. For information on the 2014 Crime Victims’ Rights Week activities contact the Victim Assistance Program Coordinator at (719) 520-7272.