First Responders: Initial Primary Responsibilities

After a crime occurs, the first responders on the scene consist of law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, fire fighters, social service workers, and community volunteers. Crimes range from singular to multiple. For any type of crime, the responder’s initial contact with the victim is essential in ensuring the safety of the victim and the preservation of the crime scene, as well as increasing the likelihood that the victim will be able to assist in solving the crime.

As the responder is the first person that the victim will interact with after the crime occurs, he becomes the one who is more likely to build the trusting relationship needed to ensure the victim will cooperate with authorities afterwards. The first responsibility of the responder is to provide a secure environment post crime for the victim. Once the scene is secure, the responder attends to the victim’s medical needs. As this occurs, the responder should make certain that the victim’s emotional needs are met as well. Thus, the responder should continue to make the environment as a whole a safe one.

With that, the victim is likely to trust the responder more, thus building rapport between the two. This increases the likelihood that the victim will continue to trust law enforcement in the future, and that the victim will participate with officers and judicial officials throughout the investigation. The support received directly after a crime relates to how the victim copes with the crime afterwards. Crime victims that receive immediate and sensitive care directly following the crime are more likely to make healthy progress in their lives afterwards. Responders should be empathetic when addressing victims.

While the responder shouldn’t sympathize with the victim, as he should not present as feeling sorry for the victim, he should have an understanding of what victims are experiencing in the aftermath. A responder who is aware of the needs of the victim is more likely to increase rapport, thus allowing the victim a sense of security and support, as well as increasing the cooperation of the victim with authorities. Cultural competency is an important awareness needed by first responders. As each victim is unique, he also is a part of a culture that may respond to crisis differently than others.

Responders should be mindful of cultures, age groups, mentally challenged, hearing and visually impaired groups. This creates a more effective interaction and understanding between the responder and the victim. In doing so, the responder again increases rapport and also gains the respect of the victim. Lastly, the responder should discuss with the victim an action plan of what happens after the crime. This can range from forensic investigation to court appearances. The victim should be provided with victim’s resources, through pamphlets, phone numbers, and community resources.

Providing victims with information directly after may seem overwhelming, but the victim will have the information when he chooses to use it. Again, this creates an opportunity for the victim to be a part of the investigation and have an understanding of his role in it. While first responders are often seen as the ones providing the medical care and crime scene investigation, they are also the ones who initiate the first contact with the victim. This creates an opportunity for the responder to create a safe environment for the victim, offer support and empathy in a culturally sensitive manner, and offer after-care resources.

A combination of these efforts increases the probability of client cooperation with law enforcement as well as healthy coping of the victim. Ultimately, the responder must see that the client comes first in any situation. Reference U. S. Department of Justice. (2005, April). First response to victims of crime. Retrieved August 8, 2010, from http://www. ojp. usdoj. gov/ovc/publications/infores/pdftxt/FirstResponseGuidebook. pdf Department of Homeland Security. (n. d. ). National response framework resource center. Retrieved August 7, 2010 from http://www. fema. gov/emergency/nrf/