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Necklace will help threatened women

April 03, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A necklace with life-saving potential is available in Berkeley County.

On Thursday, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department unveiled a plan to use the Abused Women's Active Response Emergency necklace - a call button that women can wear and use to summon police when their lives are threatened.

About 12 will be available to women in Berkeley County, said Ann Lindstrom, public relations manager for ADT Security Services Inc., which is providing the service for free.

"Typically, in this size community we offer up to a dozen, but if a 13th or 15th is needed, we're not going to deny that," Lindstrom said.

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Women can request the necklace under three conditions: they must be in imminent danger, have a protective order against their abusers and agree to prosecute them.

The button on the necklace signals a wall unit installed in the woman's home. The wall unit signals a monitoring center, which calls police immediately.

The necklace can send a signal to the wall unit from up to 100 feet.

Berkeley County is the 135th community in the United States to use the program, Lindstrom said.

About six domestic violence incidents are reported every day in Berkeley County, according to law enforcement authorities.

Martinsburg City Police receive about 46 domestic violence calls per month. West Virginia State Police in Martinsburg estimate the agency receives 80 calls per month, with about 25 percent resulting in assault charges.

Also on Thursday, the Eastern Panhandle Coalition Against Family Violence announced its plan to apply for a $350,000 grant to encourage domestic violence arrests.

Spokeswoman Nieltje Gedney said some departments keep in-house records of family violence petitions, but there isn't a unified effort.

"Law enforcement needs to know what the status is of these cases ... and there's no way to do this," Gedney said. "A third (domestic violence) offense is a felony and many are going through the cracks because they're not identified."

If the grant is awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, the money will be used to establish a Domestic Violence Special Unit - prosecutors and police trained to handle domestic violence incidents, a support staff to track the cases, legal support for victims and outreach programs for schools and the community.

Law enforcement agencies in the Eastern Panhandle also would have a computer software program called the Combined Local Arrest Warrant System to track family violence protective orders throughout the area.

"We're one of the last areas in West Virginia that's not on this," she said.

Prosecuting attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs and victims' assistance programs in Jefferson and Berkeley counties support the project.

"The goal is to eliminate domestic violence," Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said. "If we have all the information at hand, we can effectively deal with it."

On Thursday, the coalition asked the Berkeley County Commission to be the lead agency on the project. The commission will meet next week to decide whether to join a growing list of advocates.

The grant provides funding for 18 months.

The coalition should know on Sept. 15 whether it will receive the funding, Gedney said.

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