VCU Police Victim/Witness Program
For many, a report to law enforcement following an act of sexual and/or intimate partner violence, stalking, or harassment may be the first time they have encountered the criminal justice system. The thought of engaging the system may be overwhelming and without understanding of processes and options, victims may need assistance navigating the next steps.
Victim/Witness Program Specialists
Since 1993, the VCU Police Victim/Witness Program has helped survivors to provide resources and assist in the navigation of the criminal justice system. Currently, the department has 16 Victim/Witness Program Specialists. While all VCU Police officers have received trauma-informed training, Victim Witness Program Specialists undergo extensive training regarding the laws, case laws and procedures that govern the criminal justice system’s handling of these types of crimes.
When a person approaches VCU Police Department regarding a report of sexual and/or intimate partner violence, stalking or harassment, VCU Emergency Communications Center dispatches a Victim/Witness Program Specialist to provide a victim-centered law enforcement response. The Victim/Witness Program Specialist is trained to understand that trauma may present differently in people for a variety of reasons and to recognize that any interaction with law enforcement is a significant step in that person’s process towards moving beyond victimization. The Victim Witness Program Specialist will offer resource referrals, which may include counseling, advocacy, safe housing and medical attention and can act as a liaison between the victim and the University’s Title IX office. Even if a crime occurs outside the VCU Police jurisdiction but is reported to VCU Police Department, Victim/Witness Program Specialists can help the victim coordinate with the responsible investigating jurisdiction to provide case updates and safety planning.
In addition to initial response, the Victim/Witness Program Specialist can assist the victim with petitioning a magistrate for a criminal warrant against the person who has harmed them. They can help the victim navigate the process for obtaining emergency and preliminary protective orders, and provide transportation to and from court appearances or meetings with the Commonwealth Attorney. If the victim desires to complete a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK), the Victim/Witness Program Specialist can provide transportation to a forensic nursing unit. Should a case require further investigation, VCU Police Investigations Unit is comprised of detectives who are all Victim/Witness Program Specialists.
Starting in 2016, VCU Police Department implemented the You Have Options Program for sexual assault reporting. This model is designed to allow victims to set the pace of their report to law enforcement. It mandates that all victims are treated with respect and that their needs are prioritized above all else. It is the goal of the program to reduce barriers to reporting and support victims through providing accurate and complete information about their options so that they can make decisions that are best for them.
To read more about You Have Options Program (YHOP) or to file a report with VCU Police Department, please click the following link: VCU Police You Have Options Program. Note that clicking this link does NOT automatically file a report with the police department; you will have the option to do so on the redirected page. Please be advised that reports made online could take up to 72 hours for a law enforcement response. If you are in an emergency situation, or need medical or other resources immediately, please call the VCU Police emergency line 24/7 at (804) 828-1234.
The VCU Police Department is the first law enforcement agency in Virginia with the capability to electronically file financial assistance applications with the Virginia Victims Fund, which allows victims to file for reimbursement on certain qualifying expenses that occurred as a result of a crime. Victim Witness/Program Specialists can assist victims in completing these claims and will provide follow up on the status of the claim as it becomes available.
The following are the VCU Police Department’s Victim Witness Program Specialists.
Victim/Witness Program Coordinator: Det. Cierra Eldridge
Detective Cierra Eldridge can be reached from 830 a.m. to 430 p.m., Monday through Friday at (804) 828-6409 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Det. Eldridge is located at 224 East Broad Street which is accessible by use of the GRTC Pulse, effective July 01, 2019.
Day Shift-Patrol Division:
- Sergeant Chelsey Cocke
- Sergeant Jennifer Riemann
- Officer Alexandra Bailey
- Officer Brandi Boyd
- Officer Jasmine Merricks
- Officer David Shiner
Night Shift- Patrol Division:
- Officer Nicholas Finch
- Officer Andrew Hudgins
- Officer Thomas McIntosh
- Officer Nathaniel Whitenack
- Lieutenant Duane Thorp
- Sergeant Edgar Greer
- Detective Cierra Eldridge
- Detective Lee Olds
- Officer Amy Murray
- Officer Frederick Wiggins