New UCPD unit to connect victims and witnesses of serious crimes with local resources and support

campus aerial

This week, as part of a broader effort to enhance patrol and community safety resources in recent months, the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) launched a dedicated Victims and Witness Services Unit to support members of the campus and South Side communities alike. The new team of staff members will work closely with city and county victim support services, and University partners, such as Deans on Call, to ensure that individuals who report serious crimes to UCPD are guided to resources and support services. News of the unit’s formation was included in a fall safety message that was shared with the campus community earlier today.

Anyone, on or off campus, who is the victim of or a witness to a serious crime such as an aggravated battery, a robbery, or a sexual assault within the UCPD’s South Side patrol area and reports the crime to the department, will now be contacted within 72 hours by one of three full-time advocates from the new unit. These experienced professionals will then work with the individual to connect them to a variety of resources ranging from local counseling to victims’ compensation services, walk them through the court system process should they want to pursue that, and otherwise provide access to information and guidance.

The unit was created to bridge a gap UCPD identified for non-University community members especially who might not otherwise have access to comprehensive support services, Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath says. Heath estimates the unit could provide support for more than 200 cases per year.

“We offer our services to help [victims and witnesses] walk through the criminal justice system and not have to do it alone,” Joan Fiesta, director of the Victims and Witness Services Unit, says. “Our goal is to lift the veil of mystery so they can stay engaged, hold the offender accountable, and move toward being whole. We’re dealing with human beings who basically had a piece of themselves taken away, so my hope is that we create relationships within the community, that we make sure we’re taking a victim-centered approach, that we break out of silos, and provide good wraparound services for people who find themselves navigating this strange process, while also helping them in their own recovery.”

To contact UCPD and/or a team member within the Victims and Witness Services Unit, please call UCPD at 773-702-8181.

Back to News
Related articles