ARIZONA NEWS

Phoenix-based specialist part of FBI team that focuses on victims’ needs

Apr 9, 2019, 4:25 AM | Updated: 8:55 am
Lance Leising (left) leads the FBI’s violent crime task force in Phoenix. Sarah Lynne Vasquez is ...
Lance Leising (left) leads the FBI’s violent crime task force in Phoenix. Sarah Lynne Vasquez is a victim specialist with the agency. (FBI Photo)
(FBI Photo)

PHOENIX — When a mass casualty event occurs, the FBI works to secure the crime scene, collect evidence and determine what happened.

But the FBI’s work doesn’t end there. Victim specialists are deployed to support the victims and their families.

“I feel that a lot of people don’t realize the footprint that we have,” said Sarah Lynne Vasquez, one of seven FBI victim specialists based in Arizona.

“In the aftermath of mass casualty events, the FBI has a victim services deployment team where we’re boots on the ground within 24 hours, and we help the victims.”

The team provides a long list of services to victims, including temporary housing, assistance with food and clothes and emergency transportation for medical care.

“We want to do whatever we can [for the victims] to make things just a little better in the aftermath of their victimization,” Vasquez said.

Lance Leising, the supervisory special agent with the FBI’s violent crime task force in Phoenix, describes victim specialists as “one of the most important resources the FBI provides.”

He said having specialists focus on getting victims the help they need allows investigators to focus on crime investigations. He said victim specialists also often help with investigations.

“Often times, the victim specialists during the course of providing services to the victims identify some issues that the investigators weren’t aware of,” he said.

As part of the FBI Victim Assistance Rapid Deployment Team, Vasquez has responded to several mass casualty events, including the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013 and the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017.

Vasquez said the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 20 children and six adults were killed in 2012, was “by far” the worst event she has responded to.

“When you think of children, you think of innocence, joy, little pieces of love – and it was very hard to witness that,” she said.

Nationwide, the rapid deployment team has responded to 24 mass casualty events since it was formed in 2005.

FBI victim specialists have served 1.8 million victims, averaging about 235,000 per year.

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Phoenix-based specialist part of FBI team that focuses on victims’ needs