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Domestic violence position funded

March 26, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

After taking stock of the way it provides services to victims of domestic violence and finding itself lacking, Hagerstown City Police applied for and received a state grant to hire a domestic violence coordinator.

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The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention provided the $40,910 grant for the position from court fines and fees, a spokeswoman said.

The domestic violence coordinator will be responsible for following up on all domestic violence incidents and referring victims to community agencies for early intervention, according to Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith.

"While we have been providing some good services in the area of referrals and victim assistance information, we believe we need to take measures to improve our initial and follow-up responses to domestic violence calls," said Smith in the grant application.

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According to city police the department handles about 475 domestic violence calls a year.

Smith noted discrepancies in related statistics for 1996 through 1998, when officers went on 1,422 domestic violence calls but filed only 387 reports.

"The indication here is that too many domestic violence incidents are not getting adequate police involvement and follow-up," he said.

From the 387 reports written, 321 arrests were made.

"Over the three-year period, 66 incidents which warranted investigations failed to result in arrests. We are concerned that most of these should have resulted in arrests," Smith said.

The number of arrests that were made at the scene of domestic violence calls during that period also raised a flag, he said.

Smith said of the 321 arrests, 158 arrests were made at the scene, followed by 163 arrests on warrants at a later date. The warrants were primarily obtained by the victims and not officers, indicating a lack of followup by investigating officers, he said.

The Hagerstown Police Department needs a formal mechanism to ensure that domestic violence cases are pursued after the officer leaves the scene, he said in the grant application.

"If the officer is not taking necessary investigative steps and following up on cases beyond the initial officer contact, the ability to prosecute becomes hindered if the victim withdraws cooperation," said Smith.

Vicki Sadehvandi, executive director for Citizen's Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, applauded the Hagerstown Police Department for taking a realistic look at its domestic violence record and doing something to improve it.

"It think it's going to be very effective in the coordination of services for victims," said Sadehvandi.

"We're expecting a lot of referrals," she said.

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