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history of vcars programs
Over the past two decades, concern has grown in Canada for the rights and needs of the victims of crime. It has been recognized that more can be done to address the needs of victims of crime and/or tragic circumstance and disaster in the Province.
The 1982 Canadian Urban Crime Survey, conducted in seven major urban centres by the Ministry of the Solicitor General Canada with the assistance of Statistics Canada, provided much insight into the needs of victims of crime as defined by those persons who had themselves been victimized. Services valued most highly by the survey respondents included immediate, at the scene support, practical help and information. Such assistance helped them to feel more confident that they could deal with both the consequences of the crime and their emotional reactions to the crime. Police also reported that victims who have had their own needs attended to effectively are often able to better recall details important to on-going police investigations.
In 1987, the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General began three pilot projects in Ontario to test a new method for assisting police officers to meet their concerns about victims of crime. Utilizing trained and accredited volunteers, the Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral; Services (VCARS) in Algoma District, Brant County and Frontenac County offered twenty-four hour per day, mobile crisis response teams to assist victims at the request of police officers.
The pilot projects were seen to have had a considerable impact in a number of areas. It demonstrated that multiple police jurisdictions can be serviced by a community based location. As well, it has shown that victim services can be provided primarily through the use of volunteers.
These two factors together provide ample evidence that appropriate models for victim services can be developed within reasonable resource boundaries, and within the parameters of community policing philosophy.
The comprehensive review of the VCARS evaluation indicates that the model has proved capable of significantly reducing the traumas and surrounding consequences of victimization. Moreover, the secondary victimization of individuals by the criminal justice system has been reduced as the skills required to handle these circumstances have been enhanced.
Other independent police or community-based victim assistance programmes throughout the Province provide further substantive documentation that victim assistance programs are an effective and valued means to helping victims of crime and tragic circumstance.
At the present time there are 34 funded programmes throughout the province. Our particular area is well represented with programmes in the rest of Simcoe County (Barrie and Area VCARS), Muskoka, Victoria-Haliburton (now Kawartha Lakes), Peterborough, and Durham Region.
history of north simcoe victim crisis services
North Simcoe Victim Crisis Services started with a steering committee of four in March 1997. The steering committee expanded to a Board in April 1998. After many, many hours of work and research we were ready to train our first two classes in the spring of 1999. The first 45 volunteers graduated with Commissioner Gwen Boniface present in June and started their first shifts on the July 1 weekend.
Since that time we have trained a total of seven classes of volunteers, with class 8 commencing March 31, 2003.