GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County has been ranked No. 1 in the state for its volunteer victim services unit. 

Those are the people who come to crime scenes to help victims, giving deputies time to investigate.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office has 22 volunteers in the unit who take caring for the community seriously as their job and they are been recognized as a leader in the state.

Hundreds of victim services volunteers were recognized by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association victim services program Friday. Steve Roberts was there receiving the award with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.

“We couldn’t be in law enforcement without our victim advocates. They really are a bridging of the gap, if you will, that assist our officers when dealing with some tragic situations. It allows the officer to focus on the who, what, when, where and how,” said Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt.

With 83 counties and sheriff’s offices in the state of Michigan, Kent County stands out.

“Every program is designed very similarly. However … it’s the people. The people that serve within our ranks with our victim advocate program come with a feeling of compassion,” said DeWitt. 

Victim advocates devote time and resources to families and their needs even after law enforcement leaves the scene.

“Dispatch will call us or send a text message of an incident where a deputy has requested our services and we will meet them at the scene of an accident or meet up at a point together and then show up to a family’s home to make a notification to them,” said victim advocate volunteer Steve Roberts.

“There’s a lot of calls that stick with you, the tough ones for sure,” said Roberts.

In 2022, 142 victim advocate call-outs were placed to Kent County residents, totaling 355 hours and 7,557 miles of service to the community.

“One of the most memorable calls that I’ve actually been on we actually kind of left from that scene and it was a suicide and the mother and sister showed up to the scene … They were very distraught. We were trying to give them information and help them out because they didn’t know things in this area. And I really left the scene feeling like I didn’t do a lot for them and it wasn’t until a debrief meeting later that I found out the mother had sent a card to the department with a donation to the sheriff’s office in her son’s name,” recalled Roberts. 

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said its victim volunteer advocates unit ranking No. 1 in the state is all about teamwork.

“It is very rewarding, it’s challenging at times, but it’s nice to know that we’re doing a public service … helping not just the citizens but the deputies as well,” said Roberts.

“We are truly blessed not only with our victim advocates, but all our volunteers that they do come with that badge that we are so proud to display as a member of the sheriff’s office,” said DeWitt. 

If you’re interested in becoming an advocate, Kent County Victim Services is always looking for volunteers.