Crime Survivor Services

Crime Survivor Services (CSS) is a new unit within HSD's Safe and Thriving Communities Division. The creation of this unit aligns with the City of Seattle's commitment to reimagine public safety. The unit is comprised of two programs: the (9) system-based victim advocates and a trauma response team made up of (70+) community volunteers. CSS works with survivors of domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, human trafficking, internet crimes against children, and child abuse, as well as hate crimes, robbery, and surviving family members of homicide victims. CSS system-based advocates are embedded in the Seattle Police Department investigative units. They work closely with the detectives and prosecutors to ensure that survivors have a voice in the criminal process and their rights are protected. This model will synthesize supervision under one civilian manager who will be authorized to supervise personnel required to access indirect CJIS data and law enforcement material.  An interdepartmental agreement outlines matters related to specific job duties of each employee, such as case assignments, continued access to secure law enforcement facilities, databases, etc. 

Centering survivor agency, dignity, and safety as well as ensuring the provision of trauma-informed care through a race and social justice lens are the core facets of the Crime Survivor Services unit. CSS works closely with community-based agencies to stay current on resources available to survivors; increase opportunities for partnership; and enhance collaboration between system and community-based advocates to best meet crime survivors’ needs.

Crime Victim Advocacy Program

The CSS Advocates’ role is to ensure that crime survivors rights are upheld.  With the formation of the Crime Survivor Services office, multi-disciplinary advocacy efforts of each crime type have merged so that procedures and statistical measures can be uniform, and best practices in crime victim advocacy can be established.  However, the intent is to keep specialized expertise in the field of each crime-victim’s needs.

CSS Advocates provide trauma-informed, victim-centered support and resources to crime survivors and their families throughout the criminal justice system process. This begins at the time of the police report through the adjudication of any criminal charges that may be filed. The CSS Advocate acts as a liaison with follow-up detectives and prosecutors and is responsible for ensuring statutory obligations are met related to timely notification to victims of crime. This includes updating families and victims on the status of the investigation and court proceedings. Once charges are filed, the advocate tracks the different phases of the court proceedings keeping survivors updated and/or attending critical hearings with (or on the behalf of) the family/survivor.

The CSS Advocate is responsible for advocating on behalf of the family/survivor to ensure access to community resources, victim benefits, and critical services for shelter, transportation, counseling, medical services, interpreters and education on victimization and trauma issues. CSS Advocates can directly provide transportation assistance, and assistance with registration for Crime Victim’s Compensation benefits. CSS Advocates will communicate with crime survivors in all languages via interpreter services.

Our Co-Location Model

CSS Advocates foster collaborative working relationships with SPD investigators, to keep survivors abreast of recent changes in their case and ensure the survivors' voices are heard, by co-locating Advocates in each investigative SPD unit.

The Victim Support Team community volunteers are embedded in the precincts so they may offer immediate trauma response for survivors of domestic violence, at the request of patrol officers.  The presence of VST community volunteers at violent crime scenes, alongside patrol officers, allows people to feel supported by their community and work in partnership with several regional DV service programs to ensure survivors have access to critical services quickly.

Victim Support Team

The CSS program also includes the Victim Support Team (VST), which has been part of the Seattle Police Department since 1996; embedded in the DV Unit, managed by civilian staff.  VST volunteer teams are called to respond on weekends to crime scenes at Officers' requests, to assist domestic violence survivors and their children.  VST provides transportation, help locating shelter, food, and clothing; offers resources and answers questions about the criminal justice system; and offers safety planning. VST receives referrals from patrol officers, detectives, prosecutors, ER social workers, community programs, and system-based advocates. VST volunteers also retrieve cases at the King County Jail on Saturdays, in order to contact victims at the request of the City Attorney's Office to inform the victim of inmate release information, NCO status and provides community referrals. As part of the new transition to CSS, VST plans to adapt and expand beyond its current model of precinct patrol officer response, to also include supporting the CSS Advocates by accompanying survivors to court and offering immediate emergency resources. 
  
The VST Victim Advocate further bridges the gap in services by safety planning with victims during the week, and works closely with the CSS Advocates, City Attorney Advocates, and SPD Detectives to provide emergency resources and assistance that demand time-sensitive attention.   
  
The VST Volunteer Programs Coordinator oversees VST volunteers, including the rigorous volunteer admittance process and is responsible for planning and delivering the 50-hour Training Academy, the monthly meetings/in-service trainings and appreciation events.

Hear directly from VST volunteers about their experiences: