When Linda Carl returned home to Montrose about a dozen years ago, she knew what she wanted to do.
Along with reconnecting with her family, Carl went to work for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, first as a court security agent. She progressed from there to a sworn deputy and, about 2.5 years ago, she began taking a different kind of call: the ones about crime victims in need of help. Carl is now one of the agency’s victim advocates.
“What appeals to me is being able to assist the victims and help them in their time of need, when they’re traumatized,” Carl said.
Victim advocates provide guidance, resource referrals and support through a victim’s trauma during the criminal investigation. The MCSO victim advocates work hand in hand with those from the Montrose Police Department and also closely with District Attorney’s Office victim advocates, the latter of whom assist victims during the prosecution of the crime.
Advocates like Carl are “first responders” during the investigation process. Once charges are filed, an advocate from the DA’s Office is usually assigned to help the victim in accordance with the Victim Rights Act.
“But we work very closely with the DA’s Office to keep them informed of any changes we know of,” Carl said.
Carl rotates being on call with Montrose Police Department victim advocates so that there is that critical 24/7 availability. They also work closely with the advocates in other law enforcement agencies in the six-county 7th Judicial District.
“They help us and we help them when needed also,” Carl said.
Law enforcement agency victim advocates can also respond to assist officers with notifying people of a loved one’s death, after a vehicle crash, a house fire, or other types of events that are traumatic and bring a public agency’s response.
“The advocates are available through the police department and sheriff’s office 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will respond to deaths to try to help support the family when we’re requested. We ensure that the victim knows what rights they have and then we provide them with a resource list to help them know what is available,” Carl said.
“Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs. Most of them are pretty receptive to receiving the help, but everyone does respond differently.”
Assisting people who have been victimized by crime or unexpected loss can seem daunting to an outsider. But someone needs to be there for people who are at their lowest or most vulnerable point, and Carl is happy it’s her.
“A lot of times when a person has had a traumatic event happen to them, it is nice to have some guidance on how to get into a safe house, or how to get some financial assistance on costs they weren’t expecting due to the incident,” she said.
“Information on the protection orders and crime victim compensation applications, or also information on grants — how to get assistance in different ways, even resources for legal assistance.”
Society as a whole benefits when crime victims get needed support. “It helps the community by helping the victims get into some place where they are safe, into some place where they can be referred … to be able to make it on their own,” Carl said.
Not everyone is comfortable in the role Carl fills, but there are other ways to give back, she said.
“Even as simple as donating to MADA (Mexican American Development Association) to help people who need clothes, or to work at Shepherd’s Hand, to volunteer at places like that,” she said, adding that a community that volunteers is a stronger community overall.
“Getting in there, lending a hand, giving your support, helping out somebody else, makes your community stronger,” Carl said.