By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - A grant received recently by the Fort Pierce Police Department will enable the agency to have a full-time crime victim assistant.
The duties of the victim assistant are to provide short-term counseling, assistance through the court process, help victims replace important papers, assisting with medical bills and giving information and referrals of social agencies that can also help victims of crime.
"The position has been in place at least six years," said Dennis McWilliams, public information officer for the Fort Pierce Police Department.
"The position has been funded by a grant before this."
While different types of violent crime in the city vary, the most prevalent ones a victim assistant helps with are the domestic violence cases.
Last year, according to police records, 750 victims were helped with the program, and 550 of them were domestic violence victims.
"Assisting victims of domestic violence is what our grant was written for," said Sonjia Philpart, the victim assistant with the Fort Pierce Police Department. "It's the primary reason for the position."
In the grant that was recently approved, the police department estimates approximately 710 victims will be served in the upcoming year and 549 of those will be domestic violence related cases.
The victim assistant position also provides assistance in death notifications, as well as services to seniors, the homeless and juveniles.
"The Fort Pierce Police Department is pleased to have again received the award," Officer McWilliams said. "It is evident there is a clear need for victims' assistance. Having this program helps us protect our community by assisting victims of crime as they navigate through what can sometimes be a difficult and challenging system."
For more information, call the main station at (772) 461-3820 and ask to speak with the victim assistant.