‘They’re not alone’: GRPD adds victims specialist

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department has hired a specialist whose sole focus will be on victims and their families.

Clorissa Novak is GRPD’s first victim services coordinator. She works with a group of volunteers to care for those who have been victimized by crime.

“There is a human impact to every single crime and I come in and I see that every day,” Novak told News 8. “I don’t care if you want to pursue charges. I don’t care if your case doesn’t go forward. I don’t care if you don’t want to talk to law enforcement at all. If you need me, I’m still here.”

Her role is a part of the department’s plan to improve its relationship with the community.

She is embedded with the detective unit, where she is able to communicate with those handling the most serious cases. She said she is able to provide assistance to those affected by crime in ways that detectives and investigators don’t have time to.

“When they have to do their investigation and they have to be so focused on that part of the case, I can kind of make sure that no one falls through the gaps,” Novak said.

Novak has a background in social work and has years of experience working with victims of crime. She said she heard about the opening at GRPD and saw it as a perfect fit.

“Hopefully I’m bringing the softer side, making sure those people don’t fall through the cracks. But it’s also good to be able to communicate to a victim (that) ‘it was your detective that came to me. They really do care,'” Novak said.

It’s been a busy year for Novak to get her start. Grand Rapids has had 20 homicides so far — already more than the total killed in all of 2019.

“It’s so hard to have someone and then the next day they’re gone,” Novak said. “When I come in in the morning, I pull my referrals and every day I’m hoping for a quiet day just because that means less victims.”

Novak’s role deals with more than victims of the most serious crimes. She said her office will also reach out with a letter to victims of lesser crimes. Her goal is to leave them all with an understanding that GRPD cares about victims and wants to support them.

“I hope they know that they’re not alone in this,” Novak said. “I can’t take away what happened but I hope they know they have someone to walk along with them.” 

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