Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate expected his department’s new victim and community services coordinator position to be a job that required wearing many hats.
Barb Hedstrom, hired for the job in May, has confirmed Tate’s prediction. On a given day, she can be found helping solve a bike theft, delivering a bucket of primer to a muralist working to remove graffiti, or tending to her share of a community garden behind the department — “another perk of the job,” she said.
When Tate asked the City Council for the position last year, he said the city’s 2,100 crime victims in 2013 rarely heard from a police officer calling to follow up on the report. That absent piece, he said, hurts the department’s case clearance rate.
“I know we were missing things,” Tate said.
Hedstrom’s day begins navigating a flood of e-mails. Any case for which a victim can be identified calls for her involvement. Departments in larger cities may have grant-funded domestic violence advocates, Tate said. But Hedstrom’s role is broadened to include representing Shakopee Police on community boards and internal tasks like managing the department’s sex offender database.
‘Let me help you’
Hedstrom joined Shakopee Police after 10 years working for the Scott County attorney’s office. A paralegal by training and lifelong Scott County resident, Hedstrom also worked for private law firms and was an advocate for the Southern Valley Alliance for Battered Women.
She said the opportunity to serve as a community liaison attracted her to the opening.
“A lot of people out there wish they had someone at the police department they can call. Maybe I can be that person,” Hedstrom said.
Some community groups have also returned the favor. When Hedstrom shared the story of a woman who left a 12-year abusive relationship but didn’t have enough money to move closer to family in another state, an online network helped connect her with a U-Haul truck and gas money.
“Think about that importance on that person … to finally achieve a level of safety she hasn’t felt in a decade,” Hedstrom said.
Elmer Casper, a Shakopee resident, dropped by the department to express thanks one recent afternoon. Hedstrom had helped Casper reclaim thousands of dollars lost in connection with an identity theft scheme this summer.
“You feel like you have no recourse,” Casper said later, reflecting on finding out he became a victim. “All of a sudden I get this call from Barb, it’s like oh my goodness, I’ve got somebody that’s going to help me.”
“She was the first sign of any encouragement in those 10 days,” he said.
Tate says the position is still a work in progress, a fluidity Hedstrom seems to embrace.
“Every situation presents a different problem and different possible solution — what’s your biggest worry? Let me help you with that,” she said.