Berkeley County will lead grant quest

April 13, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley and Jefferson counties could hire 11 people for a Domestic Violence Special Unit if the federal government approves a $570,000 grant request from the Eastern Panhandle Coalition Against Family Violence.

Last week, the Berkeley County Commission agreed to be the lead agency on the grant to encourage domestic violence arrests and convictions, pending approval from county attorney Norwood Bentley III.

Prosecuting attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs and victim assistance programs in Jefferson and Berkeley counties are supporting the project, which will fund several new positions:

* A special prosecutor and a clerk for each county and a deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department trained to handle domestic violence cases and track them.


* Two community outreach coordinators to assess cases, train law enforcement officers and provide educational programs in the schools and the community.

* A lawyer in Jefferson County to provide legal services to victims, a part-time assistant director for the Victim Assistance Program in Jefferson County and a part-time clerical position for Berkeley County's Victim Assistance Program.

* A part-time director for the Eastern Panhandle Coalition Against Family Violence.

The grant also would fund a computer software program to track family violence protective orders throughout the area, called the Combined Local Arrest Warrant System.

"Even if we don't get this grant, we've formed a foundation to move on and apply for others," said Nieltje Gedney, spokeswoman for the Eastern Panhandle Coalition Against Family Violence. "Everybody came to the table for this grant. It marks a new era in coordinated community response and collaboration in the Eastern Panhandle."

The coalition's grant request is $200,000 more than they anticipated because of wages and benefits for the additional positions.

"The initial $350,000 amount was a guesstimate. After all the players were on the table, it added up to $570,000," Gedney said. "There's nothing frivolous in this grant. It's bare bones, but it fills in all the cracks."

Gedney said the CLAWS system - already used in Charleston, W.Va., and many other areas - will keep departments informed. Some departments keep records of family violence petitions, but there isn't a unified tracking system accessible by other agencies.

Many multiple offenders fall through the cracks because they aren't identified, Gedney said.

The U.S. Department of Justice will announce grant recipients on Sept. 15. It provides funding for 18 months and can be applied for again.

The coalition is a community response organization, made up of local government officials, victims service agencies and community associations.

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