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Beaverton crime victims have a new friend in their corner

by: Jaime Valdez Katrina Rodriguez serves as a resource to Beaverton police officers and crime victims in her new role as victim services coordinator.

The Beaverton Police Department took another step forward in its efforts to improve assistance to crime victims with the addition of Katrina Rodriguez.

The 31-year-old Garden Home resident now serves as the agency's victim services coordinator.

In the newly created position, Rodriguez will be that friendly voice on the other end of the line or compassionate advocate victims can draw support from as they go through a difficult and sometimes traumatic time.

It's a role she's familiar with, having worked in the past with runaways, homeless youth, survivors of sexual assault, commercially exploited children who had been trafficked for the purpose of sex, people living with HIV/AIDS and the elderly.

Knowing she could help victims when they are vulnerable, be a resource to police officers and detectives and connect people with the service providers and community partners they need is what attracted Rodriguez to the job.

'I have a background in social services and working with vulnerable populations,' she said. 'The opportunity to impact victims in a positive way and provide them with services drew me.'

The position will also allow her to utilize her background in developing programs.

'I have experience running a nonprofit and turning a program around,' said Rodriguez, who graduated in 2002 from Seattle Pacific University with bachelor's degrees in sociology and business administration with a concentration in marketing. 'The fact I get to create a program is very exciting.'

Prior to joining Beaverton's law enforcement team on Aug. 8, Rodriguez managed adult development for the Girl Scouts of America, serving Oregon and Southwest Washington, where she organized ongoing training for adult volunteers.

She also spent several years building AmeriCorps programs with Covenant House International, which serves homeless and runaway youth. Starting in direct care at one of Covenant House's crisis residential centers in Florida, the organization later drew on Rodriguez's leadership to coordinate AmeriCorps programs in four states from Covenant House's headquarters in New York.

Since moving back to Oregon last April, she has found ways to volunteer her time with causes close to her heart. As a volunteer with the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Beaverton, she served on the crisis hotline, in case management and as an advocate for sexually exploited children.

It was through her work with SARC that she learned about the opportunity with the police department, which seemed to be tailored for her unique skill set and experience, she said.

Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding said it was important to find the right person for this role, as it enhances the agency's nationally recognized victim services program.

'By bringing Katrina to the department, we will be able to build upon the services we already provide, bring our victim services program to the next level and enhance our commitment to connecting victims with the services they need,' Spalding said. 'We were fortunate to find someone like Katrina who brings a combination of education and work experience to this position.'

As part of a collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Beaverton's police force spent two years participating in a national pilot program to help craft a strategy to effectively respond to all types of crime victims and collaborate more productively with service providers and community partners to meet victims' needs.

Since 2007, Beaverton's law enforcement team has made big strides in taking more time with victims, following up to ensure they have support services and inform them of their rights and what to expect as their cases move through the criminal justice system.

'I'm confident that Katrina's work in the community with our victims will also aid in the prosecution of criminal cases and encourage others who are fearful of reporting certain types of crimes,' Spalding added.

So far, the word is getting out that Rodriguez is available.

In addition to riding along with officers to talk about what she can do to support them, Rodriguez has met with dozens of community partners to see what services for victims they provide.

'I want to understand what exists - I don't want to duplicate efforts,' she said. 'Ideally, my role would find a balance between ensuring victims are connecting to the services they need and developing programs for victims, where services don't exist.'

Officers are already referring victims to Rodriguez, who calls to check in with them to see how they are doing and if they need any additional services.

In her role, she also represents Beaverton on the Domestic Violence Intervention Council, Elder Abuse Task Force and Justice League.

'It's been fun,' she said of working with the men and women of the police department. 'They're a great group of people. Not having a background in law enforcement, my experience here has given me a new appreciation for what they do on a day-to-day basis.'