Recently, TCAPS received an annual allotment of funding from the Provincial Government for $46,000 to fund the Taber and Vauxhall Victim Services Unit.
“Over the years, TCAPS has been making applications to the Solicitor General in order to assist us with running our victim services unit,” said Inspector Graham Abela of the Taber Police Service. Abela is president of TCAPS.
Abela explained the Taber and Vauxhall victim services program is run under TCAPS, and is provided funding under the Victims of Crime grant from the Provincial Government on an annual basis.
“They have been for years,” Abela said. He noted TCAPS and the victim services unit has been expanding in recent years to make more help available for those in need of it.
“It’s expanding and growing,” he said. “We have more advocates than ever before.” He added with the increased size of the program the victim services unit would be applying for more grant funding in the future, and that up to $150,000 could be available, should they ever require that amount due to growth.
“We haven’t had a need to have that much of an expenditure yet in our community.”
Charles Hart, manager for the Taber and Vauxhall Victim Services Unit, said the role of the unit is much more encompassing than many people realize.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re assisting with a variety of different things,” he said. “A lot of our work comes from the police, but we (also) respond to sudden deaths, suicides, house fires, and domestic violence. Any trauma-causing events.”
In 2013, the victim services unit helped 650 people who had been victimized by crime or endured a traumatic hardship. Hart said they have 12 volunteers who donate their time so someone is on call to assist the police every hour of every day of the year. He added 650 is a larger number than they’ve seen in previous years, perhaps as a result of more advocates being available to help.
“We usually average somewhere around 100 to 125 people per quarter,” he said.
Hart said the reasons local residents are using the victim services unit is broken down into the following categories and divided up over quarters. For January to March 2014, the victim services unit dealt with the following:
Criminal code (violent), such as homicides, sexual assaults, family violence, and assaults. In the first quarter there were 48 cases;
Criminal code (non-violent), such as theft, fraud, break and enter, trespassing, and mischief. In the first quarter there were 74 cases;
No offense occurred, such as sudden deaths, suicides, house fires, or serious injury. In the first quarter there were 10 cases.
Hart mentioned one anomaly in the classification stems from how common assault (without a weapon) is classified under non-violent.
“To me, that’s kind of an interesting legal classification,” he said. “But that has something to do with the legal statutes and how they classify things.”
Hart said the symbol for the victim services unit is helping hands, an idea which is well represented by the unit.
“You just reach out and try to provide those helping hands that come together and provide strength in a time of need.”
He also mentioned the unit is always in search of more of those helping hands.
“We’re still open and looking for more volunteers,” said Hart. He noted they currently have two volunteers who speak fluent Low German, and one who speaks Spanish. He said the search for volunteers who are fluent in other languages is ongoing.
“We’re always looking for advocates,” said Abela. “If people want to volunteer with victim services, it’s a great opportunity to help the community. They do wonderful work in helping victims of crime.”
Hart highlighted the three main goals of a victim services unit, which includes providing support, providing information, and providing referral services as needed.
“The secret of what we do is we take victims and try to make them survivors,” said Hart. “The key is not to always be a victim but to learn how to regain your own strength and become a survivor.”
“Don’t be afraid to call if you need help.”
Anyone interested in more information on TCAPS or the Taber and Vauxhall Victim Services Unit is encouraged to get in touch with any TPS member or to stop by the TPS station, or call 403-223-8991 and ask for victim services.