Improving Access To Police Services
Crime Victim Assistance Program
In the aftermath of a crime, a victim can feel lost, vulnerable, and uncertain about the security of his or her future. All too often in the criminal justice process, much time and effort is focused on processing offenders, while victims rarely (if at all) play any sort of active role. The Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP) was born out of the NYPD's commitment to serving the public and restoring victims' sense of self and independence.
Launched in October 2016, CVAP was a massive undertaking in both size and infrastructure. DCCP partnered with Safe Horizon, the nation's largest and most comprehensive victim services provider, to staff all 77 precincts and 9 PSAs with two victim advocates. One victim advocate would specialize in handling instances of domestic violence, while the other would serve victims of all other crimes. However, both also proactively engage individuals who don't necessarily identify as victims of crime, but who may have experienced violence or have been victimized in other ways. Victim advocates perform daily outreach to victims in several ways, including outreach letters, telephone calls, and home visits. In addition, they advocate on behalf of victims in a variety of settings, including to employers, landlords, businesses, and even within the NYPD.
Victim advocates are also tasked with conducting community-based presentations designed to encourage victims to seek assistance. The underlying concept of CVAP is that even though victims of crime experience trauma in different ways, the NYPD is equipped to quickly mitigate that trauma through positive interactions and providing as much support and access to resources as possible. Its purpose is to reinforce the idea that the NYPD is determined to help victims of crime rebuild their lives at every step of the recovery process.
Child Trauma Response Teams / Child-Sensitive Arrests
The idea of improving access to police services applies not only to adults, but also to minors who may not understand the implications of being exposed to certain types of crime. In July 2015, DCCP, with support from Safe Horizon, established a Child Trauma Response Team (CTRT) in the confines of the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem. Its goal was to address the immediate safety needs of children impacted by domestic violence, and to reduce the likelihood of children developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As of 2018, CTRTs now service select precincts in the Bronx, Queens, and additional precincts in Manhattan.
Inspired by the Yale University Child Study Center, CTRTs complete trauma screenings with children and caregivers to get a sense of how the children are coping. This response entails having a child trauma responder contact a family within 24 hours of a child witnessing a domestic violence incident. When meeting with a family, the responder will assess current safety risks, and provide information on appropriate resources and services. Upon screening any children, if the responder has determined that they are at risk for developing PTSD, then he or she will discuss the possibility of exploring short-term mental health treatment options with the caregivers.
When effecting the arrest of a parent, police officers will now ensure that it is done beyond the sight and earshot of any children present. In the event that no immediate caregiver can be located, they will also transport the children to a local Child Advocacy Center (CAC) until such time that the arrested parent can resume care. Domestic Violence Prevention Officers make routine visits to verify the children's well-being, and will notify the arrested parent of their location. Arrestees are encouraged to inform the NYPD of any specific child care needs at this time.
Mediation Referral Program
Police officers respond to a myriad of situations during their day-to-day interactions with the public. Over the years, the NYPD has developed numerous tools and methods to better adapt to New York City's dynamic landscape and new and unusual type of complaints. In April 2017, DCCP, with support from several local Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRCs) formed and implemented the Mediation Referral Program (MRP) in select precincts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The service was expanded to include all NYPD precincts and PSAs in January 2018.
Under MRP, police officers are able to offer members of the public the option of voluntarily participating in mediation at CDRCs to resolve ongoing and recurring problems with neighbors, non-intimate roommates, business associates, or local merchants. It was primarily designed as a strategy to address quality-of-life matters when enforcement action is not warranted. Some common examples of eligible cases for referral to mediation include: noise complaints; driveway sharing, non-criminal property damage, and; disagreements over pets.
MRP offers a wide array of benefits to all concerned parties, including members of the public and the NYPD alike. When people choose to engage in MRP, the CDRCs are able provide a neutral forum where participants can discuss concerns, work together to improve communication, and negotiate agreements to settle conflicts in the presence of specially-trained professionals. They also benefit by having the opportunity to resolve these low-level disputes without having to rely on lawyers, the police, or the court system. Participation is voluntary, and the services are completely free and confidential. In turn, the NYPD benefits when chronic complaints are resolved and no longer require its attention.
Expanding Interpretation Services
The NYPD is committed to providing the best service to New York City residents and visitors alike. Because of its dynamic landscape, police officers will oftentimes find themselves interacting with Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons or people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. To that end, DCCP advocated to expand the NYPD's capability of responding to inquiries from these populations.
For example, DCCP developed information cards in the ten most commonly spoken languages in New York City. These cards inform readers that the NYPD provides assistance regardless of one's ability to speak English, that interpreters are always available to assist LEP persons, and that interpretation services are provided free of charge. They are widely distributed through other city agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community and faith leaders.
Serving individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can sometimes present a unique set of challenges, but the NYPD is determined to ensure that everyone is afforded the same standards of courtesy, professionalism, and respect. DCCP, in collaboration with the Deaf Justice Coalition, Lexington School and Center for the Deaf, Harlem Independent Living Center, and the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, developed another set of communication cards for use when individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are stopped in a vehicle, or are the victims of a vehicle collision. The cards inform police officers of the preferred methods of communication for the drivers, and display icons to which they can point in order to easily communicate the purpose of the stop. Similarly, the cards instruct the drivers on how to respond when pulled over, and the icons can be used to notify police officers of any immediate medical needs.
When necessary, interpreters are contacted by phone, and separate interpreters are on-hand for cases of domestic violence and all other types of crime. To improve upon this, DCCP partnered with LanguageLine Solutions to enable live video interpretation via smartphone application. Upon launching the application on their smartphones, police officers can connect LEP persons with interpreters who help to minimize response times. For deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals, interpreters specializing in American Sign Language are readily available. Nevertheless, a large amount of NYPD personnel self-identify as multilingual. These personnel are encouraged to undergo certification by professional language service providers to deliver enhanced in-person interpretation whenever possible.
Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview
The Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) is an interview technique designed to effectively gather critical information from special victims who have experienced trauma. This process differs from standard interview techniques in that it focuses more on taking special victims's psychological well-being into consideration when attempting to elicit personal recollections. The idea is that by minimizing ongoing trauma, special victims are more likely to provide accurate accounts, leading to quicker investigations and prosecution.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, DCCP directed Special Victims Division detectives to undergo training administered by the Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program (SAVI) at Mount Sinai Hospital, the Crime Victims Treatment Center at Beth Israel Hospital, and North Central Bronx Jacobi Hospital.