In observance of National Crime Victims' Week, April 8-14, Chief Luke Fedler and victim services coordinator Becki Havens provided an overview of victim services offered by the Delta Police Department. They spoke at the April 3 city council meeting.
Havens said she works closely with Leah Valdez, victim services coordinator for the Delta County Sheriff's Office, and law enforcement agencies across the 7th Judicial District. That level of cooperation is rarely seen in other parts of the state, but is a necessity in rural agencies where personnel often wear more than one hat. Such is the case with Havens, who also serves as the police department's public information officer.
Her number one priority, however, is victim services. She explained the emphasis on services for innocent victims of crime originated with President Ronald Reagan shortly after the assassination attempt on his life. He formed a task force that came up with 68 recommendations and sought amendments to state constitutions establishing victim rights. The amendment was adopted in Colorado in the November 1992 election.
The constitution now ensures that every victim of a criminal act (or their immediate family members) is treated as a crucial participant in the criminal justice system. They have the right to be heard, informed and present at all critical stages of the criminal justice process. Victim statements are a crucial element of sentencing, and can have a profound effect on the judge's determination, Havens said.
It is the intent of the legislation that all victims of and witnesses to crimes are honored and protected by law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges in a manner no less vigorous than the protection afforded criminal defendants.
Victim services from the Delta Police Department are available 24/7 and can include crisis counseling, follow-up contact, criminal justice support, crime victim compensation, transportation and safe house shelter. Havens provides death notifications and responds to unattended deaths to be with the family of the deceased.
In 2015, the program provided services to 256 primary and secondary victims of crime. That number climbed to 290 in 2016 and to 377 in 2018, and Havens said she doesn't see that trend reversing.
The services at DPD are sustained through the Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement (VALE) program and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) assistance grants. In her 10 years with the DPD, Havens said the department has received grants totaling $450,000 to $500,000 to fund victim services.
A brochure detailing all the services offered to victims of crime can be obtained from the police department at 215 W. 5th Street in Delta.