Crime Victim Services Award
2018 Crime Victim Services Award
Marion County, South Carolina, Sheriff's Office
The NSA Crime Victim Services Award was established in 2005 with funding from the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2008, Appriss Safety has generously sponsored the award. NSA’s Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services Committee, chaired by Sheriff Kathy Witt, administers this award program that recognizes “outstanding achievement by a Sheriff’s Office in support of victims.” The award recipient for 2018 is Marion County, South Carolina, Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), a full-service agency responsible for a jurisdiction of nearly 500 square miles, under the leadership of Sheriff Brian Wallace.
Sheriff Wallace, upon taking office in January 2017, promised the citizens of Marion County that he would transform the current Victim Advocate Program into a proactive part of the organization as well as ensuring that all victims received services from the program.
In March of 2017, Sheriff Wallace hired Tammy Erwin as a civilian victim advocate. Within a month, VA Erwin was certified as a victim advocate and began the arduous task of revamping the program. Software that had previously purchased, but under-utilized, began to be used. Procedures and protocols were put into place to ensure that every victim in the county received the same level of care and access to information. VA Erwin created a standard letter that notified victims of their rights, individual case number and giving them a direct line of contact to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. VA Erwin continued communication with each victim throughout the entire legal process.
One of Sheriff Wallace’s goals as Sheriff was to bridge the gap between the community and staff. Not only did VA Erwin take great strides to make the office more child-friendly to ease the stress of office visits, but she also assisted the deputies in becoming more involved in community activities, including but not limited to, school functions, ceremonies, meeting with community groups, etc.
Additionally, the Victim Advocate Unit partnered with the K9 Unit in efforts to raise money for a new dual-purpose department K9. VA Erwin sold stuffed German Shepherds with adoption certificates and organized a “Koins for K9” drive where children from the community could save their change and donate to the fund. As a reward for their efforts, they were invited to a pizza party. The VA Unit was able to raise over six thousand dollars ($6,000.00) for the K9 Unit.
Finally, the biggest accomplishment thus far has been acquiring Caj, their therapy dog. Caj serves the crime victims in the office, court and community. Marion County was the first sheriff’s office in South Carolina to have a therapy dog on staff for crime victims. Caj is in the office each day and is not only a comfort to victims, but also to staff. Most recently, Caj held a presentation at one of their schools, where each of the approximately three hundred students lined up and had the opportunity to pet Caj. Some of these children had never had the opportunity to pet a dog. It was a wonderful event for Marion County Sheriff’s Office to have a chance to gain the trust of young citizens in their county. Wearing a badge and a vest, Caj gives not only children, but all citizens of the county the opportunity to have a positive encounter with a “deputy.” Caj is able to assist Sheriff Wallace with one of his slogans: “We want our community to meet us before you need us.”
In summary, since the implementation of the new Victim Advocate Unit’s policies and protocols, The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has taken great strides in bridging the gap between law enforcement and the citizens of Marion County. The Victim Advocate Unit has played an unequivocal role in the unity of the community and Sheriff’s Office by building trust on both sides. The Victim Advocate Unit continues to grow and evolve to protect victims; provides education to other communities about effective Victim Advocate Units; and continues to push for even more assistance, resources, and education that the citizens of Marion County deserve.
The deadline for receipt of nominations by NSA is December 7, 2018. Nominations should be no more than 10 pages in length, including attachments, and should not include DVDs, CDs, etc. Mail nominations to the attention of Jessica Vanderpool at NSA (1450 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314). For further information, contact Jessica at 703-838-5303.