A new program soon to establish in Cleburne partners Cleburne Police Department with churches with an eye toward aiding crime victims. CPD Chief Robert Severance said he hopes to see the program spread to other county law enforcement agencies.
The Neighbor’s Keeper program operates under Victim Relief Ministries, an organization founded by Gene Grounds in 1999 in Dallas.
About 60 area community and law enforcement members attended Thursday’s introductory and informational meeting at the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce.
Although VRM operates throughout the country, area chapters remain locally focused, representatives said.
The organization addresses disaster response initiatives and support and aid to crime victims.
The goal, VRM President and Chaplain Edward Smith said, is to fill the gap after disaster response and emergency management personnel and rescue workers leave the scene.
Grounds ran a prison ministry before founding VRM.
“A police sergeant in an Austin suburb told me about a similar program, which was just volunteers, not a faith-based program,” Grounds said.
Smith said that while the program is faith based, it remains open to participation by all religious groups, Christian and non-Christian.
“We are a ministry and we don’t apologize for that,” Smith said. “But the point is not to shove religion down anyone’s throat.”
Smith said the mission of VRM and the Neighbor’s Keeper program flows from the Good Samaritan parable, given that police and rescue workers are naturally inspired to choose their professions through compassion and a desire to help.
Smith, Grounds and Severance said working with churches makes more sense than calling on individual volunteers as churches are already established and focused on reaching out to and helping the community.
The problem, Smith said, is that church members and ministers are not often equipped to deal with crime and disaster victims, which is where training and programs offered by VRM comes into play.