Overcoming Geographic Isolation
Although the problems caused by geographic isolation in rural communities have no easy solutions, the gap between service provider and victim can be bridged with cooperative relationships and outreach.
Examples of cooperative relationships include
- Setting up cooperative working relationships with local sources of transportation. This may include taxi services from the nearest urban location or police departments and sheriffs' offices in each area of the county.
- Purchasing discount gas cards from local gas stations for victims who are traveling long distances to the prosecutor's office.
- Establishing satellite locations, perhaps by tapping into community resources for help with identifying meeting places that are convenient and safe for specific victims or witnesses. Examples of these locations include police stations, hospitals, and schools, among others.
- Obtaining discount rates at local hotels or motels for victims who want to travel the night before an early court date.
Outreach activities may include
- Setting up small community outreach initiatives to advertise the services that the victim/witness program provides, e.g., posting fliers on utility poles in isolated areas, including fliers in local utility bills, posting information in fast food establishments, or disseminating information through local police departments. One jurisdiction that posted fliers with tear-off contact numbers in its most rural area subsequently received more calls from that area. Another jurisdiction included information for elderly or disabled crime victims with its Meals on Wheels deliveries.
- Identifying contact or "point" people in the isolated areas who can educate residents about the benefits of working with the victim/witness advocateeven if residents must travel to the city to do so.
- Establishing a network of trained advocates in rural areas. In Ohio, the statewide Ohio Victim Witness Association has set up a traveling victim advocate program that provides services throughout the state. State associations like Ohio's can also facilitate working relationships and information sharing among victim/witness providers throughout a state.