Seattle Human Services Department Continues to Create Safe and Prosperous Communities Division
As the City of Seattle continues to reinvent public safety, the Safe and Prosperous Communities Division is a new division of the Seattle Department of Human Services (HSD) that consolidates the City of Seattle’s past and planned investments in community security in the department. The division was formed in response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and subsequent community advocacy efforts that urged the city to center Black, Indigenous and Colored (BIPOC) communities and shift security investments. to community organizations.
As part of the reinvention, the Crime Survivors Services Unit (CSS) – made up of Victims of Crime Advocates and Victim Support Team programs – has been integrated into HSD by the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
CSS supports people who experience a wide range of violent assaults, some of which include domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and hate crimes. The unit also supports family members of homicide victims. Community agencies work closely with the unit to keep them apprised of resources available to survivors; multiplication of partnership opportunities; and improving collaboration between advocates of the system and those in the community. This work centers on the free will, dignity and safety of survivors, as well as ensuring trauma-informed care from a racial and social justice perspective.
“We welcome the Crime Survivor Services Unit within the Human Services Department,” said Helen Howell, Acting Director of HSD. “Their work is extremely important and we look forward to partnering with them as we establish this new division dedicated to community safety.
From the moment a police report is filed, nine system-based Victim Advocates are tasked with working on behalf of families / survivors to ensure access to resources – from victim benefits to interpreters on the way. by essential services for accommodation, transportation, counseling, medical services, and more. This plea can usually continue with the laying of criminal charges and the various stages of the legal process.
Victims of Crime Advocates will continue to come together within each SPD investigative unit to provide unwavering support. One such example is the Elder Crimes Advocate, who works alongside the SPD detective as they both visit the home of the crime survivor. The advocate can provide an early assessment of the cognitive functioning of the crime survivor and offer a softer tone to the vulnerable adult. The perpetrators of these crimes are often family members or caregivers, which creates a need for immediate care once the perpetrator is removed from the situation. By being involved in the case from the start, the advocate can assess these care needs and start working to quickly put a plan in place.
The second CSS program is the Victim Support Team (VST). VST is a 30-year-old program designed to address the service gap for domestic violence survivors immediately after a patrol officer answers a 911 call.
On weekends, VST is a mobile crisis response team, operating throughout the city and providing on-site and / or telephone support. The volunteers work in teams of two and are assisted by a supervisor on call. They provide transport; help find shelter, food and clothing; suggest resource references; provide security planning; and answer questions about the criminal justice system. During the week, the VST Victim Advocate responds to requests for VST services, working with detectives, patrollers, system advocates and community partners.
As part of the new transition to CSS, VST plans to adapt and expand beyond its current model to also include support for CSS lawyers by accompanying survivors to court and providing resources to help them. emergency to survivors of all types of violent crime.
“The community members who volunteer for VST are remarkably dedicated,” said Kaylee DiMaggio, VST Supervisor. “After a year of leave related to the pandemic, they look forward to returning to service and are grateful for the opportunity to continue this important work.”