Lethbridge Police Victim/Witness Services Unit marks 30 years in operation

WATCH: It’s a year late, but the Lethbridge Police Service Victim/Witness Services Unit finally able to celebrate its 30th anniversary on Thursday. Past and present members on hand to mark the occasion, representing how far the unit has come and where it is headed. Erik Bay has more.

More than 480,000 hours logged by 526 volunteers across 30 years were acknowledged Thursday evening, as the Lethbridge Police Service Victim/Witness Services Unit (VWSU) commemorated its anniversary.

“Quite a milestone when you think of the number of people it takes to volunteer over 30 years to provide 24/7 coverage,” said VWSU program manager Catherine Pooley.

Pushed a year because of the pandemic, members past and present were honoured with a plaque unveiled at the Lethbridge Police station.

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The plaque stands next to an apple tree also planted in recognition of the work volunteers have put in with the VWSU.

That includes Grace Couturier, currently in her 22nd year volunteering with the unit providing support, information and referrals for people impacted by crime or tragedy.

“There’s nobody there just for them, so we fill that void and I think it’s a really good void to be filled for the city of Lethbridge,” Couturier said.

According to Pooley, the Lethbridge unit was one of the first of its kind across the province.

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Launched in 1991, more than 41,091 files for support have been opened by members.

She says being there for people in their toughest time is a privilege for the group.

“Being trusted at those moments is incredible,” Pooley said.

“Knowing that we can build on that and build forward for the next 30 years and continue to build trust in this community is huge for us.”

“We have a shoulder for people to cry on. We have an ear when people are talking to listen and we have tools to give people, but only if they choose those tools,” Couturier said.

A time capsule will also be filled to mark the occasion, to be opened in another 30 years.

While Pooley is unsure what the future holds for the Victim/Witness Services Unit, she is certain of one thing.

“Who knows what the programs will look like, who knows what the supports will look like, but I know the volunteers will not change,” Pooley said.

“Their commitment, their empathy will be what its been for the last 30 years and I can’t wait to see where they’re at in another 30 years.”

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