On a National level, President Ronald Reagan created the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime in 1982 to address the needs of the millions of Americans and their families who are victimized by crime every year. In creating its report, the task force reviewed the available literature on criminal victimization, interviewed professionals responsible for serving victims, and spoke with citizens from around the country whose lives have been altered by crime.
Crime victims are such an important part of the criminal justice system process that Colorado voters amended the state Constitution to include Victim Rights in 1992. The Victim Rights Amendment states:
Any person who is a victim of a criminal act or such person’s designee, legal guardian, or surviving immediate family members if such person is deceased, shall have the right to be heard when relevant, informed and present at all critical stages of the criminal justice process. All terminology, including the term “critical stages” shall be defined by the general assembly (Article II, Section l6A Colorado State Constitution).
Prior to December 2013 the law enforcement victim services within Gunnison County were handled by agreement through Gunnison County. In December 2013 the long time serving Law Enforcement Advocate retired. The four primary law enforcement agencies in Gunnison County; City of Gunnison Police Department, Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Crested Butte Marshal’s Office and Town of Mt. Crested Butte Police Department, began providing services individually. On May 1, 2014 the four agencies entered into an agreement establishing Gunnison County Law Enforcement Victim Services, operated by the Gunnison Police Department with a board of directors comprised of the four agency heads.
In 2017 the Gunnison Victim Services Program served 146 primary victims in Gunnison County which reported a population of 15,324 in the 2010 census and covers a land area of 3,239 square miles. Gunnison County Law Enforcement Victim Services is the only law enforcement victim-centered service agency in the Gunnison County area, providing services to victims and witnesses of crime reporting to law enforcement and qualifying under the Colorado Victim Rights Act.
The Victim Advocate is available to provide information, support and referrals in a compassionate and caring way to crime victims and their families as they walk through the law enforcement process.
The Victim Services Program provides victims with support, assistance and crisis intervention. The initial shock following a crime, sudden death, or other trauma is harsh and painful for all involved. Police officers present at the scene of a crime or accident act with compassion and sympathy, but their primary responsibility is related to law enforcement protocol such as crime scene investigation and police reports.
The Gunnison County Victim Services Program is staffed by a dedicated and trained Law Enforcement Victim Advocate who is on-call 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, to respond immediately to the scene of a crime, accident, or victim's home at the request of law enforcement or a victim.
As an experienced active listener, the Victim Advocate, will assist victims in sorting through the law enforcement process and ensure that their voices are represented and heard. The advocate will help victims regain control by encouraging them to manage one part of the problem at a time, provide referrals and prepare and inform the victim of “what is next”.
Advocacy and Resources
Many resources are available within Gunnison County. Victims will be provided with appropriate referrals on the criminal justice system, victims' rights, crime victim compensation, protection orders, mental health counseling, and safety. The advocate can give you procedural and factual information concerning the crime and act as a liaison with law enforcement and other community agencies.