The Maryland State Police are seeking federal help in launching two projects -- one in Carroll and one serving five Eastern Shore counties -- that for the first time would provide a coordinated approach to the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases in rural areas.
The agency is requesting between $500,000 and $700,000 to hire investigators who would specialize in domestic violence, expand shelters for victims and their children, and train police officers in the most effective ways to respond to domestic violence calls.
If successful, the 18-month pilot programs will serve as models for initiatives throughout the state, said Capt. Douglas Ward of the department's planning and research division.
"The grant would give us the money to pay for a dedicated unit of investigators right from the start, which is something we've never had before," said Sandra L. Rappeport, Carroll County district director of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, which provides counseling and other support services to victims of domestic violence.
Rappeport said the grant would make it possible to reach the victims of domestic violence who in the past have been reluctant to seek help from the criminal justice system.
"The accepted statistic is that one woman in 10 pressed charges," she said. "I believe that with this grant we can start to tap into the other nine women who have not felt safe enough or protected enough to get involved."
The state will be competing with other law enforcement agencies nationwide for a portion of the $7 million made available to rural states as part of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Federal officials plan to award the grants to establish 15 to 20 projects in rural areas across the country.
Maryland is not classified as a rural state, but Ward said that it is possible to designate rural areas within the state for purposes of the grant application.
He said Carroll County was chosen as a pilot site because of its central location and because of the success of the county's Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Center, which is overseen by Carroll's state's attorney's office. Through a cooperative approach, state police investigators, social workers and prosecutors work together to investigate and prosecute child abuse and sexual assault cases.
"Carroll County has proven that the CASA program is very successful, so why can't we make this work with domestic violence?" said Sgt. James E. Vandegrift of the department's planning and research division.
The Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence, based in Denton, would oversee the second project. The council serves Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot, Caroline and Dorchester counties.
The Carroll County proposal calls for two additional full-time state police investigators -- a male-female team -- to concentrate on domestic violence cases.
The team would be called to the scene of the most serious domestic violence calls, and would follow up on all other calls and work with the state's attorney's office on the investigation and prosecution of all cases.
Both pilot projects would have program coordinators, domestic violence advocates to help victims through the criminal justice system, social workers and clerical support.
The grant also would pay for additional shelter services for victims and their children and transportation assistance so they can attend counseling sessions and court dates.
One of the most critical components of the project would be coordinating all of the agencies and institutions that intervene in domestic violence cases to ensure that victims receive the services they need.
"If a victim calls the police and they don't know who else to refer the person to or do not care enough to refer the person to the appropriate resource, that person may end up calling 12 different places and talking to 20 different people when they need help and they need it at that time," Ward said.
As part of the grant, the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence would provide training to police officers in laws dealing with domestic violence.
"The grant will give us the resources to get involved to support the victim, let the investigators make an investigation that doesn't rely on her so prosecutors can get a conviction and the system can work the way it's supposed to," Rappeport said.
Pub Date: 6/19/96