A part-time victim assistance expert has begun working with the Howard County Police Department. Creation of the 10-hour-a-week position is the department's first effort to devote resources specifically to victim services.
Cassie Puls, who has 10 years of experience working with crime victims, initially will focus on elderly crime victims and robbery victims. The job, which she began last week, is funded bya $9,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Before coming to Howard County, Puls was the statewide coordinator for victim services. She also has worked with the Carroll County victim assistance program.
In addition to working directly with crime victims, Puls will compile an information book for crime victims onwhat services are available to them.
"Victims have a lot of otherthings on their mind than what phone number to call," said Lt. Jay Zumbrun, who wrote the federal grant application for the victim-assistance position.
The department chose to focus on elderly victims because it felt the elderly often do not receive needed services.
"The healing process is much more prolonged, and the psychological ramifications tend to be much more devastating," said Zumbrun.
"The elderly victim population deserves the extra care and attention we can give them."
The decision to target robbery victims stemmed from the desire to help an additional group.
Puls will review copies of officers' reports and then contact victims by telephone to offer services. She also will provide assistance to victims of other crimes on acase-by-case basis.
Much of Puls' work will involve referring victims to agencies and support groups that can offer the services they need, Zumbrun said.
The department hopes to establish the victim assistance coordinator as a full-time position funded by the county, Zumbrun said.