7-16 Services for Victims and Witnesses 

Policy Type: Local

Responsible Office: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 10/7/2013

Current Revision Approved: 9/1/2018



The purpose of this directive is to emphasize that an effective response to the needs of crime victims and witnesses is an integral part of the law enforcement mission. This essential function, performed by both sworn and civilian personnel, should address victims’ and witnesses’ needs by establishing a continuum of support as victims/witnesses progress through the various phases of the criminal justice process.

As first responders, law enforcement personnel are uniquely positioned to provide care and support to victims of crime as required by state and federal laws. These efforts can have both an immediate and a long-term impact on the victim’s emotional recovery by developing a sense of security and stability and potentially mitigating the traumatic effects of the crime. Therefore, it is the policy of this department to (1) recognize and address the needs of crime victims by all employees during each contact; (2) support and assist the victims as they continue to interact with the criminal justice system; and (3) act as a liaison to appropriate victim assistance and service agencies.


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any policy violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling, and/or disciplinary action is initiated.



VICTIM/WITNESS – For the purposes of departmental policy and procedure, and as recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia Victims Bill of Rights, victims and witnesses are similar in nature and treatment. As such, they are categorized as anyone who suffers physical, emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a felony or certain misdemeanors including, but not limited to assault and battery, assault and battery against a family or household member, stalking, sexual battery, attempted sexual battery and driving while intoxicated. Victims include individuals who have been direct targets of violence or property loss or damage, their family members, and people who experience emotional trauma as a result of witnessing such an incident.


Victim/Witness Needs

Victims and witnesses of crime experience a variety of physical, psychological and social needs, which can be classified under seven categories:

  1. Safety: Protection from perpetrators and assistance in avoiding retaliation or further harm
  2. Support: Assistance to enable participation in the criminal justice system processes and restoration
  3. Information: Concise and useful information about victims’ rights, criminal justice system processes, and available victim services
  4. Access: Ability to participate in the justice system process and have ready availability to support services
  5. Continuity: Consistency in approaches and methods across agencies through all stages of the criminal justice process
  6. Voice: Opportunities to speak out and be heard on specific case processing issues and larger policy questions
  7. Justice: Receiving the support necessary to heal and seeing that perpetrators are held accountable


Virginia Code §19.2-11.2 Crime Victims’ Right to Non-Disclosure Certain Information

  1. Upon request of any witness in a criminal prosecution under § 18.2-46.2, 18.2-46.3, or 18.2-248 or of any violent felony as defined by subsection C of § 17.1-805, or any crime victim, neither a law-enforcement agency, the attorney for the Commonwealth, the counsel for a defendant, a court nor the Department of Corrections, nor any employee of any of them, may disclose, except among themselves, the residential address, any telephone number, email address, or place of employment of the witness or victim or a member of the witness' or victim's family, except to the extent that disclosure is (i) of the site of the crime, (ii) required by law or Rules of the Supreme Court, (iii) necessary for law-enforcement purposes or preparation for court proceedings, or (iv) permitted by the court for good cause.
  2. Except with the written consent of the victim of any crime involving any sexual assault, sexual abuse, or family abuse or the victim's next of kin if the victim is a minor and the victim's death results from any crime, a law-enforcement agency may not disclose to the public information that directly or indirectly identifies the victim of such crime except to the extent that disclosure is (a) of the site of the crime, (b) required by law, (c) necessary for law-enforcement purposes, or (d) permitted by the court for good cause.


Virginia Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act (VA Code §19.2-11.01)

  1. The purpose of this law is to ensure that the full impact of crime is brought to the attention of the courts of the Commonwealth; that crime victims are treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity; and that their privacy is protected to the extent permissible under law. The law’s purpose is also to ensure that victims and witnesses of crime:
    1. Are informed of the rights provided to them under the laws of the Commonwealth
    2. Receive authorized services as appropriate
    3. An opportunity to be heard by law-enforcement agencies, attorneys for the Commonwealth, corrections agencies and the judiciary at all critical stages of the criminal justice process to the extent permissible under law
  2. As soon as practicable after identifying a victim of a crime, VCU Police, if the investigating agency, shall provide the victim with a standardized form listing the specific rights afforded to crime victims. This form must include a telephone number by which the victim can receive further information and assistance in securing the rights afforded crime victims; the name, address and telephone number of the office of the attorney for the Commonwealth; the name, address and telephone number of the investigating law-enforcement agency; and a summary of the victim's rights under Va. Code § 40.1- 28.7:2.
  3. Areas of Assistance Available:
    1. Victim and Witness Protection
    2. Financial Assistance
    3. Victim Input
    4. Courtroom Assistance
  4. Contact Information:
    1. Victim Services Section, Department of Criminal Justice Services, 1100 Bank St. Richmond, Virginia 23219, (804) 786-4000



  1. Initial Response
    1. Dispatch personnel shall treat individuals reporting a crime with compassion, patience, and respect as they collect the information necessary to determine the nature and location of the incident; the identity of the caller, victim, and the conditions that indicate that responding officers might be at risk of injury. Officers shall be dispatched to meet with the victim/witness as soon as practical, if they wish to disclose or meet with an officer.
    2. Responding officers shall:
      1. Immediately ascertain that the victim/witnesses are at a safe location
      2. Render emergency first aid, if necessary
      3. Determine the need for and request additional medical and/or other departmental resources
      4. Once the incident is stable, develop a supportive presence by reassuring the victim/witness that they are no longer in immediate danger
    3. Victim/witnesses who are emotionally distraught should not be left alone. All efforts should be made to secure accompaniment. If appropriate, relatives, friends, and/or a member of the clergy should be contacted to provide comfort and support. University Counseling provides a 24-hour counselor by phone who can be contacted, if necessary.
    4. While collecting information and physical evidence necessary for the investigation and subsequent prosecution, officers should be perceptive to and sensitive about the victim/witness’ psychological state.
    5. Employees shall consider the method, manner, location, and timing of the victim/witness interview, so as not to subject the victim/witness to additional stress. Victims and witnesses should not be interviewed in public spaces unless absolutely necessary.
    6. When requesting information regarding the perpetrator, officers shall state that, if the perpetrator is a student and the victim wishes to tell the officer their name, that the university will be notified.
    7. Officers should obtain the nature of the incident and the location right away. If the location falls outside of VCU’s jurisdiction the officer shall tell the victim they will need to tell their story to an officer from the outside agency so that if the victim wishes to wait and explain their story, they may do so once the outside agency officer arrives. Then the primary officer may sit in on the interview so that the victim does not need to re-interview.
  2. Information and Referrals
    1. At the earliest appropriate time, officer shall explain and provide the victim/witness with written information regarding the following:
      1. The Victims Bill of Rights
      2. Specific rights and protections available under the Code of Virginia
      3. Relevant victim assistance/advocacy resources that are available to them
    2. At the conclusion of the initial investigation, the officer shall:
      1. Inform the victim/witness of the general direction that the investigation will take, how the department will proceed, who will be responsible for further follow-up, and whether the victim/witness should expect to be contacted
      2. Provide the victim/witness with information about petitioning for an emergency protective order and offer to assist with obtaining the protective order, if applicable
      3. Transport the victim/witness to a safe place or medical facility, if necessary
      4. Provide the victim/witness with the telephone numbers and email addresses of the appropriate points of contact within the university
      5. When applicable, provide the victim of a sexual assault and/or violent crime with information concerning an alternate living space if available
      6. Strongly encourage the victim/witness to contact the department immediately if they are threatened or intimidated by anyone as a result of reporting the crime, or if they learn of any new information regarding the case
      7. When applicable, initiate Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP)
    3. The reporting officer shall document in their report that the victim/witness was properly informed of the rights and available protections and was provided with information relating to referrals.
  3. Investigation and Follow-up
    1. Officers assigned to conduct follow-up criminal investigations shall contact the victim/witness as soon as practical to determine whether the victim/witness has new details concerning the case and relay information, when available and appropriate, relating to such matters as:
      1. Arrest and detention of suspects and their pretrial release status
      2. Court protective orders
      3. Court proceedings and schedules
      4. Status of stolen, recovered, or removed property
      5. Possible eligibility for victim/witness compensation
    2. Officers shall, whenever feasible, schedule all eyewitness identification and/or required appearances at the convenience of the victim/witness and provide transportation, if appropriate.
    3. If feasible, officers shall promptly return victim/witness property taken as evidence where permitted by law, rules of evidence and departmental Property and Evidence policy.
    4. If the victim/witness is in need of further assistance from outside sources or the department or requests additional services, the investigating officer shall make reasonable efforts to connect the victim/witness with appropriate service provider agencies.
    5. In the event that an arrest is made, the investigating officer shall contact the victim/witness as soon as practical to provide the following:
      1. Information concerning the arrest
      2. The bail status of the suspect, or any change in this status
      3. Information about the VINE program (notification for offender custody status)
      4. An overview of the court process
      5. A specific point of contact in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.
    6. The victim/witness should be advised that if they is contacted by the suspect in any way or is threatened or intimidated by anyone, they should contact the department through Dispatch immediately.
  4. Resources
    1. Department employees that have contact with the public in general and victims/witnesses in particular shall be familiar with university, governmental and community-based victim support and advocacy organizations. It is the policy of the department to collaborate and provide reasonable assistance to such entities to the extent that it does not place the victim/witness or others at risk, substantially interfere with an ongoing investigation or prosecution, or violate privacy laws or departmental procedures.
    2. Victim/witness services with up-to-date contact information are available to all personnel on the website.
    3. Pamphlets regarding the rights of crime victims and area resources shall be made available to all crime victims/witnesses. As soon as practicable after identifying a victim/witness of a crime, provide the victim/witness with VCUPD’s “Victim/Witness of Crime” brochure outlining the Victim/Witness Bill of Rights, outside agency information and resources.
    4. Department employees shall be attentive to crime victims with special needs. Victims with physical, mental, or emotional impairments, as well as child and elderly victims should be attended to in a manner that best supports their life conditions and specific situations. Employees should select a combination of service provider referrals that can work collaboratively to meet the unique needs of these victims.
    5. Employees shall also be sensitive to the cultural needs of crime victims by providing materials in a language that the victim can comprehend and ensuring access to translator services when appropriate. Cultural background can affect the manner in which crime victims respond and react to being victimized and how they are treated by family and community members. Employees should be aware of these special circumstances and work with the appropriate service providers and community partners to support victims in these situations.
    6. The victim/witness shall be advised that the department employs a sworn officer devoted to victim/witness services within the Investigations Division.
    7. The victim/witness shall be advised that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office employs a full-time Victim/Witness Coordinator through the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office’s Victim/Witness Program.


Requests for Assistance

  1. When a request for assistance services is received from a victim or witness by Dispatch or any other department employee, the communications officer/employee shall determine whether the request is an initial or follow-up request and whether an emergency or non-emergency response is required.
    1. Emergency – The communications officer/employee will handle the request in accordance with established department procedures for emergency calls for service.
    2. Non-Emergency/Follow-up Request – The communications officer/employee shall forward the call to the appropriate investigating officer or division for assistance.



Department employees shall complete training on providing assistance and services to victims of crime as part of their initial orientation program and during regularly scheduled roll-call and in-service training. This shall include state and federal laws pertaining to victims and victims’ rights, internal policies relative to working with victims, effects of trauma on crime victims, communication skills, integrating the needs of victims into the investigation process, cultural awareness, familiarization with victim and social service providers, and how to contact and access these services.


Biennial Review

The VCUPD Victim/Witness Coordinator shall complete a documented biennial review of victim/witness needs and available services. This review shall be forwarded, through appropriate channels, to the Chief of Police.


Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

10/7/2013 - 7-16 Services for Victims and Witnesses