Victim Services sees simultaneous spike in clients and a reduction in funding

RCMP Sgt. pleads with Councils to help with funding for support role

Amy Lange’s role to support victims of crime is so vital that Sergeant Darren Kakuno, commander of the Columbia Valley RCMP, implored Invermere and Radium council members to consider how to restore her hours.

“It’s a service that we desperately need here so I’ve come to our elected officials,” he said. “Her case load is going way up and her hours are going way down.”

Ms. Lange’s contract is through Family Dynamix but she works so closely with the police that she’s based out of the detachment’s office. With a one-time provincial grant not being renewed, she is down from 33.5 hours a week last year to 25 hours a week now. Without new funding, her hours will drop even further next year.

“She’s dealing with the worst files that we come across. When we have to break the news to somebody that their child has passed away or somebody that’s been victim to a sexual assault or a domestic assault, the police come in and we manage that. We conduct the investigation, but then we have to walk away and carry on to the next call and to the next one. And I couldn’t imagine if she was only available half the time for us to bring her along and stay with the victims,” Sgt. Kakuno said.

Already this year and despite her reduced hours, Ms. Lange has seen more clients than she did in all of 2017.

Radium councillor Dale Shudra asked if the recent spike in clients means that more people in the Valley are being victimized, but Sgt. Kakuno believes the increases are mainly due to police “doing a better job at making sure that we connect victims of crime to victim services so they can see that support.”

In addition to staying behind after the police move on, Victim Services can help those who have been wronged navigate their way through the legal system.

For instance, in June 2019 Ms. Lange sat beside a survivor of sexual assault in court as the judge sentenced her assailant. Once the sentencing was complete, Ms. Lange invited the survivor and her partner into a side room to discuss the outcome. (The survivor invited the Pioneer to join them.) While there, Ms. Lange expressed empathy and encouragement and offered support.

“Now what?” the survivor asked.

“Now you’re done,” Ms. Lange answered gently. “You did a wonderful, wonderful job.”

Later the survivor told the Pioneer that: “Having Amy help me throughout the entire process of the court proceedings meant a lot to me. She made sure I had all of my questions answered and provided me with resources available to me. She was able to attend court and provide the emotional support I needed to get through it all. It was a breath of fresh air to have her along this overwhelming journey with me, and I can’t thank her enough.”

Besides helping victims move forward, Sgt. Kakuno said roles like Ms. Lange’s can also protect those who might otherwise be re-victimized.

“We’ve had domestic situations in the past where the police are doing one thing. They see part of the issue,” he said, adding that other agencies, social workers, councillors or government officials might see other sides of the problem that would be of interest to police.

“When agencies don’t communicate, things can slip through the cracks and that’s when unfortunately lives can be lost,” he said.

Ms. Lange’s role includes connecting with other agencies to minimize those cracks.

Radium Mayor Clara Reinhardt reached out to the other Columbia Valley directors to add the issue of Victim Services funding to their upcoming Regional District of East Kootenay meeting.

“It would be a tax item, but we do have the capacity,” she said.

Ms. Lange could not be reached for comment for this story.

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