The University of Texas at Arlington has received a $500,000 grant from the Office of the Governor that fund two projects that aid crime victims and the services that help them.
The governor's Criminal Justice Division awarded $418,000 to UTA's Police Department to fund campus victim services and about $100,000 to the School of Social Work to evaluate the programs that crime victims use.
Glenn Cole, UTAPD assistant chief - support services, said this is the second year of funding from the governor's office grant. He said the program got underway with a $218,000 grant last year.
"This is unusual for a college campus to have," Cole said. "We were able to hire two people in March and in the seven months since then, they've advocated and provided services for many victims."
Jennifer Sterling, UTA crime victim services coordinator, was one of those people the police department hired. Allison Scott is the advocate for the program.
"We're both licensed social workers and are on call 24-7. We can help at 3 a.m. if necessary," Sterling said. "Before, when students were victimized, if it occurred after hours, they'd have to wait until the next work day to talk. We're available all the time."
Sterling noted that she and Scott provide assistance to faculty and staff members when they become crime victims.
"Victim Service units with designated advocates within police departments are typically only found in larger cities," Sterling said. "We're more immediate. We are there on the scene to assist a crime victim. The police department needs to manage the overall scene of a crime. We're there for the victim only. We can explain the situation and set up a safety plan with them.
We'll stay with them if they want accompaniment for medical or legal appointments."
According to Sterling, there have been about 70 victims served since the service starting in March. She said more than half have been sexual assault cases. Sterling said crime victims also have experienced incidents involving burglary, harassment and assault.Cole and Sterling said the program's other aim is community outreach. They said the program talks to student groups, departments here on campus and faculty.
Rachel Voth Schrag, a UTA assistant professor of social work, is leading the other project, which calls for studying these programs across the state to determine what works and how to evaluate them.
She said UTA will team up with UT Austin and UT Rio Grande Valley to evaluate programs aimed at helping students, faculty and staff.
"We want to ask what works currently and balance that with what victims need," Voth Schrag said. "We also want to be able to measure the outcomes more easily."
She said the evaluators will have to determine how the context of the universities influence the programming.
"Plus, we'll have to take into account differences among the universities," Voth Schrag added. "For instance, we might have more students living on campus here at UTA than at UT Rio Grande Valley but less than at UT Austin."