It may be officially called RCMP Victim Services and have offices within the Houston RCMP detachment but through a network with community organizations, its reach and assistance reaches beyond people who have been affected by crime.
“The Houston Victim Services program has purposefully committed a great deal of time and effort in the past three years to initiate and maintain communication with numerous sister agencies within the local community of Houston and the neighbouring communities of Smithers and Burns Lake,” explains co-ordinator Paul Batley.
In doing so, Batley, along with volunteers, could very well find themselves assisting people who have fallen victim to any number of circumstances affecting their lives.
When a townhouse fire in March displaced a number of people, for example, RCMP Victim Services was there with other agencies to find alternative accommodation and provide support.
“The ultimate long-term goal therefore, is for all not-for-profit agencies within the Houston jurisdiction and surrounding area to be able to quickly and effectively engage with each other to better assess the needs of our shared clients and to make more effective personalized referrals to the agency or agencies best suited to the community members’ needs,” Batley adds.
Batley, a retired teacher, has been involved in victims services for more than 25 years, first as a long-time volunteer and since 2016 as a paid part time coordinator.
“The Houston Victim Services program is privileged to have two long-serving adult female volunteers and one volunteer in training,” he notes of the number of people involved in the program.
“The coordinator and volunteers of the Houston program provides the frontline program services to members of the public who require support,” Batley said.
The aspect of volunteering to assist victims of crime and other circumstances was at the heart of local efforts dating back to the late 1980s when two residents started the predecessor to the current program.
“They relied completely upon local fund raising efforts. This informal phase of the program struggled to survive in that format for several years,” said Batley.
But that changed in 1998 when an officer from the Houston RCMP detachment began talking with Houston Community Services about a more formal program of broad community involvement.
That brought on extensive community discussions with Houston Community Services then taking on the contract for the Houston & Granisle RCMP Victim Services program and administering its financial responsibilities.
In the fall of 2017, following extensive discussions, the program’s offices were moved from Houston Community Services to the RCMP detachment.
“The prevailing rationale for such a pronounced shift in the operational location of the Victim Services program was based upon the evolution of understanding of how best to meet the needs of victims,” Batley explained.
“With the coordinator now being located in the RCMP detachment casual professional conversation on a daily basis with RCMP members facilitated the increased awareness of the program within the minds of the police officers and improved immeasurably the ability of the coordinator to act upon information provided and support the needs of victims more immediately and with greater efficiency and effect,” he said.
Early on, RCMP officers would leave pertinent information involving victims on a card on the co-ordinator’s desk.
But now they send the co-ordinator an email containing that information, making contact more efficient and quicker, said Batley.
It helps the co-ordinator assess how a person can be helped by following the broad principles of victim services which are emotional support, information and practical assistance, court support and timely referrals to other agencies.