Why the city is cutting the Second Responders unit

Posted at 9:18 AM, May 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-08 10:59:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond's Second Responders unit is going away. Since 1997 the unit, which consists of about ten social workers, has supported first responders - like police. They are also housed inside of various city precincts.

The Second Responders arrive at crime scenes to help crime victims - especially young victims or those involved in domestic violence.

The city plans to reassign the Second Responders to the department of Social Services. Via email one social worker said she is heartbroken that the unit is being shut down. She said the work they do is critical and she said those families in need during times of crisis will be impacted the most.

A city spokesperson said when the unit began, there were not many outside agencies who also assisted in helping those victims. Now that those agencies exist, the city said those social workers will be used in other capacities within Child Protective Services.

Angela Verdery, who works for Safe Harbor an agency that assists victims of domestic violence, said she knows how critical those social workers are when they get to crime scenes.

She said they allowed detectives and officers to focus more on solving the crime while the social workers offered assistance such as on the spot counseling.

"When someone is on the scene and they are sitting beside you telling you this is not your fault, you deserve to be safe or I care about you, it really makes a difference," Verdery added. "When you are able to support somebody at a time of trauma you can fundamentally reshape how they view that trauma. What that can do is help them better deal with what just happened."

While they will keep their jobs in Richmond, some Second Responders said they hoped the Richmond Police Department would fight to keep their partnership going.

When contacted about losing the Second Responders,  Richmond Police said they were not yet ready to comment.

City spokesperson Mike Wallace tells us the change will take effect next week.