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Stepping in where police leave off in District 69
The tales of crime and punishment meted out by local newspapers and TV only tell part of the story.
There is also another side — that of the victims, family and even witnesses — that often gets lost in the newsroom shuffle.
That aspect isn’t lost on Lynda Ewert and her team though.
The Oceanside RCMP Victim Services program manager is well aware that the case isn’t necessarily closed when the bad guy goes behind bars. There are other ramifications left behind among the victims and witnesses to crime that sometimes need to be addressed.
Issues such as the residual horror of having been motoring along the highway, only to see a terrible motor vehicle crash that leads to someone dying right before your eyes. Issues such as children traumatized by a frightening incident, or a senior whose caregiver has suddenly died, leaving them very much alone.
“We are not counsellors, but rather immediate trauma support workers,” Ewert said. “We are trained to help people who need emotional support in the aftermath of a crime. We have all different types of crimes, accident and emergencies and we offer crisis intervention 24/7. We followup with long-term support — emotional, practical support, referring people to local resources and updating victims when they have a file with an investigator. We also do court support. You name it, we do it.”
Oceanside RCMP Victim Services is supported by two professional coordinators and three trained volunteers who are dedicated to responding to needs of victims of crime.
The significant contribution provided by Ewert and her team generally flies under the public radar, but the police know all about how valuable it is.
“We simply could not properly serve the Oceanside community without these wonderful staff and volunteers,” said Oceanside RCMP Staff Sergeant Brian Hunter. “Supporting victims of crime and trauma is a difficult and sometimes thankless endeavour. I’m so proud of the team we have here.”
The comments came as the Oceanside RCMP detachment marked the seventh annual National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, running from April 22 to 28.
It’s not always a crime scene that leads to a call from Ewert.
“We do a lot of sudden deaths in this area, because there are so many elderly people here,” she said. “It could be the partner of an elderly person or their caregiver who has passed away and we have to figure out how to take care of this person. A lot of people here come out from Alberta and don’t have someone locally available.”
It is the members of the Victim Services program who stay behind after a police officer has made that fateful knock on the door to inform someone that their next of kin has been killed in a car crash.
“The police tell the family their loved one has passed away, but we are the ones who stay there to support them so the police can go about and do their job,” she said. “We followup and give people information about what is going to happen now — what they have to do, such as contact the coroner or contact the funeral home.”
Those are tough calls, she admits, but it’s the call that involves a young person that really puts her heart to the test.
“We’ve had some baby deaths and anywhere there are children involved it’s very, very hard,” she said. “We have learned how to make sure we debrief with one another. It’s all about self-care. You can’t have a lot of other stress in your life.”
Despite that stress, Ewert said she loves being able to help people who really need it.
“When we do callouts, people say, ‘we didn’t even know you guys existed, but we are so glad you are here,’” she said. “That’s the best part of the job, being able to support people when they are at their lowest.”
For more information or to access victim support services, call 250-954-2277 or contact VictimLINK, a provincial toll-free victim support line at 1-800-563-0808.
Volunteers are also important
Although the staff at Victim Services are the most visible of a fairly invisible support system for police, there are others who are also deserving of thanks, said Corporal Jesse Foreman.
“We would also like to thank our members, civilian staff and volunteers, along with all individuals and agencies in our community who assist in supporting victims of crime, and in moving victim issues forward,” he said. “The work these individuals and agencies do to support victims of crime directly contributes to keeping our communities safe and secure we thank them for their commitment.”