Law enforcement advocate for northern RI receives Crime Victim Service Award

Renee Castelli

PROVIDENCE – A social services professional who works with northern Rhode Island law enforcement agencies to help victims of crime was recognized this week by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island.

Renee Castelli, who currently serves as a law enforcement advocate for the communities of Glocester, North Smithfield, Foster, Scituate and Smithfield, was recipient of the 2024 Crime Victim Service Award. The award is presented annually in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which honors both crime victims and those who serve them.

Although they work hand in hand with law enforcement, LEAs are not police officers, but rather advocates employed by non-profit agencies to provide crisis intervention services. Trained in issues of sexual assault and domestic violence, LEAs explain victim’s rights, provide assistance and support for victims throughout criminal justice proceedings as well as safety planning, supply victims with information and referrals, accompany the victim to court dates, hospital visits, statements/interviews, and supply an emergency 911 cell phone.

Castelli, who has a bachelor’s in criminal justice/safety studies from Westfield State University and master’s in social work from Boston University, currently works for the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center in Warwick. She previously offered victim services in Burrillville through Sojourner House, and before that spent nine months with the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center.

“Renee has been devoted to supporting victims from across the state since her work as an advocate began in early 2020,” noted U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha in presenting the honor. “COVID brought consistent instability to Rene’s work as a Law Enforcement Advocate, forcing her to adapt to new agencies, supervisors, police departments, and communities as she moved between various service agencies.”

“While these employment changes would be stressful to most of us, Renee was unflappable and embraced the challenges as a way to show her dedication to working in the field of victim services,” said Cunha. “Over the past four years, she has continued to be a support to victims, law enforcement officers and the community.”

U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide mark Crime Victims’ Rights Week every April, and the theme in 2024 was How would you help? Options, services, and hope for crime survivors. The week is highlighted annually in Rhode Island at Providence’s Victim’s Grove at Memorial Park with an event honoring the strength and resiliency of victims, victim advocates, and victim service providers.

LEA services are free and are available to people of every age, gender, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, relationship or familial status, physical or mental ability; and services are available regardless of whether or not the victim decides to report the assault to the police. Advocates are available through a 24-hour Victims of Crime Helpline at 1 800 494-8100.

The North Smithfield and Glocester Police Departments congratulated Castelli on the honor, presented in recognition of, “dedication to supporting, advocating for, and honoring the rights and dignity of Rhode Island Victims of Crime.”

“Her dedication to the field is invaluable and her sensitive and approachable attitude makes her a fantastic advocate,” said Cunha.

Hosted by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, the event also honored Rebecca White, program coordinator for Youth Driven, and included presentations by Rhode Island General Treasurer James Diossa, Providence Police Colonel Oscar L. Perez, Jr., and Candace Johndrow, Vice President, Hope Division, Family Service of RI.

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