PRINCE GEORGE — Krista Levar, Victim Services coordinator and CUPE 1048 member at the Prince George RCMP station, was recently honoured with the 2010 “Program Staff Leadership Award of Excellence” for Police Victim Services of British Columbia.
Levar credits her Local with helping her secure the position of Victim Services coordinator. When the job became available, Levar knew she had the qualifications and became frustrated when the City wanted to hire someone from the outside. CUPE 1048 got involved and worked to ensure that the position was awarded to a CUPE member. “This award is a pat on the back,” says CUPE 1048 president David Wieler. “It not only confirms that Krista is qualified, but that she’s outstanding.”
Marya Moffat, Levar’s administrative assistant, nominated her for the award. Moffat says that says that Krista displayed characteristics of a true leader right from the beginning. “Her management style is fair and equitable, and she leads by example,” says Moffat. “Krista is always willing to give credit where credit is due. If someone comes up with an idea, she is the first to congratulate that person, and makes others aware of who came up with the idea.”
Moffat also appreciates that Levar communicates decision making with the whole unit before making changes. “Krista sits down with us and asks for our input into any changes,” says Moffat. “We feel we are valued members of a proactive team.”
As the Victim Services coordinator, Levar coordinates volunteer caseworkers and assists in helping victims of crime. Sometimes assistance means sitting with a family after they’ve gotten bad news. On the day she was interviewed, Levar had been out at a scene giving emotional support to a family whose loved one had gone missing. She bought them coffee and waited with them at the side of the road while search and rescue was out.
Levar has only been on the job for a year. She notes that it’s important to tie all the different elements together – police officers need to be on board with the victim services program to make it work. RCMP officers give out referral cards to victims of crime and play an important role in the process.
Levar started a program to recognize the compassion of RCMP officers. Every month one member is recognized and everyone in the Prince George detachment learns what they did, how they did it, and how it positively impacts the victims of crime.
The victim services program helps the community in a variety of ways. If someone has been sexually assaulted, caseworkers stay and support the person while they’re at the hospital waiting for doctors. They accompany RCMP officers when they call on next of kin to notify them that someone has died, so they are able to give them whatever support is needed.
Caseworkers also do referrals when police don’t need them at the scene of a crime. For example, in a case of domestic dispute, a caseworker contacts the person who requested assistance after the fact, offers them support, and lets them know about available resources such as housing.
“It’s very rewarding,” says Levar, who also plans the volunteer caseworker appreciation dinner, runs team-building retreats, trains the volunteer staff and recruits for staff. “It’s really varied, that’s what I love about it – I do a bit of everything.” Levar created a rigorous training curriculum for new caseworkers which has been hailed as second-to-none. Her next program begins in September 2010 and other organizations in the helping field have asked if their staff can also attend.
When Levar won the position of Victim Services coordinator, she spearheaded a volunteer recruitment drive to improve the dwindling numbers of caseworkers. She worked with local media and did a lot of TV interviews. Levar held an information session and over fourty people attended. She ended up interviewing over twenty people and seven made it through the process to become volunteer caseworkers, doubling the number of caseworkers in the Prince George detachment. Because volunteer caseworkers are privy to private information, workers have a high level of security clearance, similar to what the police get.
“We were pretty short staffed and are now able to open more hours,” says Levar. “We offer 24 hour service to the officers.” She also volunteers and puts in extra hours outside of work on serious cases.
Prince George residents appreciate and fully support the Victim Services program. “Most people feel, after the fact, that we’ve helped them get through that emotional hurdle,” says Levar. The program gets glowing reviews and full support from residents. During the recent Victims of Crime Week, a program that partners various groups providing services in the community, a couple whose son had been murdered advocated for the benefits of victim services.
“The whole program, the work we do, helps the community immeasurably. People don’t realize how badly they need us until something bad happens. Sometimes just sitting there and being with them is what’s needed,” says Levar. “It’s very powerful.”