The Horry County Sheriff’s Office will apply for a grant to hire more victims advocates.

On Monday, Chief Deputy Tom Fox and Director of Victim Services Angela Brown proposed the idea to the Horry County Public Safety Committee, which approved the grant application. 

At the moment, there are no victims advocates in magistrate courts in Horry County. The Sheriff’s Office’s currently has four victims advocates, one of whom is funded by a grant that will expire soon. Victims Services plans to assist victims with cases in summary court, but Director Angela Brown said they needs more manpower to do so.

“A lot of people do not know how the criminal system work at all. They need that guidance to make sure they are protected in the future and not re-victimized,” she said.

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office will apply for a $360,000 grant to hire two more victims advocates, and keep an existing advocate. The Sheriff’s Office would also use fines and fees collected through Victims Bill of Rights Fund to fund the positions. With over 1,000 cases in March alone, Brown says her team is stretched thin. 

“We work 7 days a week including holidays and weekends. So we always have to have the office covered. And with a fourth that would help us to have more flexibility,” said Brown.

Victims advocates with the Sheriff’s Office currently assist with initial bond hearings, and notify victims when suspects are released from custody, or transferred. According to Brown, victims appearing in local summary courts have never had advocates, but says they need support and guidance too.

“Just to make sure the victims have the opportunity to have all their stuff prepared for court, whether it’s pictures, statements, pictures, because a lot of times they don’t know what to expect when they go to these trial hearings,” Brown said.

The grant would also allow the advocates to provide transportation for victims to attend hearings. Brown said getting victims to court is half the battle.

“If the victim doesn’t show, a lot of times the cases are dismissed because they don’t have anyone their to speak. So the judge can’t really hear but one side, or what the police officer has to say,” she said.