Local Program Offers Essential Services For Crime Victims
By Brian Jones
As violent crime levels go, Cottonwood Heights may be considered one of the safest cities around. For those unfortunate residents who do find themselves on the receiving end of a crime, though, a little-known government program is striving to make what is usually a difficult process more manageable.
April Ensign is the Victim Assistance Program Coordinator for Cottonwood Heights. The program, which operates in close conjunction with the Cottonwood Heights Police Department and is funded in part by grants authorized under the federal Victim Of Crime Act, exists to offer sorely needed resources to victims of all types of violent crime in the community, from domestic abuse to DUI incidents.
Ensign’s contact with victims typically comes after police have become involved, which means for the residents she works with there is often an overwhelming legal process to deal with, in addition to the physical, emotional and logistical challenges that can exist. Without help, many of these victims would simply become lost in the system or fall by the wayside, according to Ensign.
“The justice system is so complicated, without programs offering resources, victims would fall through the cracks and wouldn’t get the services they need,” she said.
In criminal cases, the needs of victims are diverse, and the services offered by the city’s victim support program are equally wide ranging. Ensign says about 60 percent of the people served by the program are victims of domestic violence, but it offers assistance to victims of any type of violent crime.
Services offered by the program range from crisis intervention and locating emergency housing, to helping arrange affordable legal aid and assisting with legal proceedings. Additionally, if a victim is cooperating with an ongoing police investigation, he or she may be eligible for expenses resulting from the crime such as relocation costs, housing, lost wages from missed work and medical expenses.
Because the public is largely unaware of the services offered by the city, representatives of the support program more often than not end up initiating contact with victims who have come to their attention through police reports.
“I’m usually reaching out to people on my own and recommending services,” Ensign said. Victims need not wait to be contacted by a representative of the city, however. “Any resident who is a victim can reach out to us on their own,” she said. “They don’t need to wait to hear from us.”
Ensign did issue one word of caution for those who make contact with the victim support program on their own. As an employee of the city, Ensign says conversations with her or anyone from her office are not necessarily confidential.
“If I receive detailed information that a crime has been committed, I am obligated to report it to the police,” she said.
However, residents wishing to be put in contact with someone they can speak to confidentially can contact the victim support program and they will do so.
Even though at times Ensign finds her work difficult, she says it ultimately provides many rewarding moments, and she hopes more residents who have been victims of a crime will contact the victim assistance program to get the help they need.
More information is available at the Cottonwood Heights City website, or April Ensign can be reached directly by calling 801-944-7042. λ