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80 ‘He’s not helping us, so we are not helping him’: the police as gatekeepers to victim services for victims of street violence
  1. Caterina Roman
  1. Temple University


Objective The dynamics surrounding gunshot victimizations in urban areas may not embody the typical ‘good’ victim/’bad’ offender dichotomy that has been the narrative in the fields of victimology and criminal justice. The characteristics of the incident may be different, as urban gun violence often includes offenders and victims who are acquainted with each other and involve victims who may have precipitated the crime incident. Given these differing dynamics, it becomes important to better understand how the victim-first responder interaction might influence the help-seeking behavior of victims of nonfatal shootings, as first responders are considered the gatekeepers to victim support services.

Method Perceptions of victim treatment by police first responders were examined through semi-structured interviews and surveys with 14 male and female victims of urban gun violence. Qualitative analyses were used to document themes describing victim sentiments toward the police response and how characteristics of the interaction and/or perceptions of the treatment victims received might be associated with the pursuit of and access to victim services.

Results Although three very different themes emerged that captured the variation in perceptions by the victims of the police response, the majority of victims reported that they believed police held either general prejudices or specific biases directed at the victim, with many victims indicating they believed police purposely withheld information on victim services.

Conclusion Study findings that victims view the police-victim interaction as being rife with biases that limit access to victim services information suggest that police agencies could benefit from implicit bias training and reviews of victim rights policies and practices to help increase access to social, legal and support services for victims of nonfatal shootings.

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