A crowd of local supporters celebrated the public unveiling Thursday of a new facility officials said will make the work of the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children more effective and more efficient.
Waco police Sgt. Jason Lundquist, supervisor of the Crimes Against Children unit, gave tours to fellow law enforcement and guests during an open house at the 17,000-square-foot facility at 3312 Hillcrest Drive, just a block away from police headquarters. The new facility will benefit the advocates and officers who work there and the crime victims they serve, he said.
“When someone is a victim of child abuse, the nonoffending caregiver is also a victim, but just filing a police report and making sure the person who abused the child is prosecuted is not the end,” Lundquist said. “The child and family need a lot of services, but now it is all right here.”
More services can be offered in the new space, meaning a child victim would not have to go to multiple buildings and share their story of abuse with multiple people, Lundquist said.
Advocacy Center Executive Director Barbara Wright said police and victim advocates are busier now than ever because more victims are reporting their abuse.
“We want people to know it takes real courage to speak out about your victimization,” Wright said. “This is a safe place, and we will walk with them through their journey.”
The center provides counseling, conducts forensic interviews with child victims that can support legal cases and offers sexual assault medical exams, among other services. The move to the new location started about six months ago, and the center’s growing staff is settling in, she said.
“We like to offer hope and healing for victims of crime, and our numbers continue to rise,” Wright said. “Our numbers of child victims have also continued to rise, so now with more space we are able to hire more staff and better serve our six-county area.”
The center now has 29 staff members, including medical doctors and specialists in case management, counseling, support groups and crisis intervention. The center’s former building at 2322 Columbus Ave. was severely dated and posed challenges for staff and victims, Wright said.
“At the other building, we didn’t really realize how much love and upkeep it needed until we started packing for the move,” she said. “It was 8,000 square feet, and the police were just on top of each other.”
Detectives in the Waco Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit have partnered with the center for years, Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt said.
“We are a tenant and a partner and we are extremely pleased with not only the facility, but with the continuing working relationship we have with the Advocacy Center,” Holt said. “The Advocacy Center is at the core of our ability to complete investigations where a victim has been traumatized.”