Counseling to be offered for domestic violence Police, YWCA target suspects for prompt assistance

June 30, 1996|By Jal Metha | Jal Metha,SUN STAFF

County police are using a new approach in dealing with increasing reports of domestic violence.

In partnership with the Anne Arundel Young Women's Christian Association, the department is using an $82,000 Justice Department grant to set up a program to pressure the perpetrators of domestic violence to get professional help.

Under the program, which will begin in March, domestic violence offenders will be asked by the police to seek counseling within seven days of the report of an incident. If the victim presses charges against her assailant, refusal to participate in counseling can be used against the suspect.

The program is patterned after successful collaborations between police and domestic violence centers in Kentucky and Washington state.

Incidents of domestic violence in Anne Arundel County have increased by more than 60 percent in the past five years, according to police statistics. In the six months between March and September 1995, county police received more than 250 reports of domestic violence.

"The purpose of the grant is to keep the family together by forcing them to go and get assistance," said Officer Helen Saghy, the grants coordinator for the department. "No longer will we just go to the house and just quiet things down."

In the past, police would provide a tear-off card for the victim, which would advise her of her rights as a battered woman, and encourage her to seek protection if necessary. Under the new program, the perpetrator will be given a card as well, advising him of the possibilities for counseling.

"This is a new approach to handle the behavior that puts the emphasis on the perpetrator," said Lorraine Chase, director of the domestic violence program at the YWCA who helped write the grant proposal. "The fact that the officers come back gives the reinforcement to the victim."

The Anne Arundel YWCA sponsors a domestic violence program that includes counseling for both abusers and victims.

The grant will permit the police department to hire an officer whose full-time responsibility will be to monitor the behavior of domestic abuse offenders.

Money from the grant also will be used to update the police department's computer system, enabling it to track complaints by an offender's name rather than the location of an incident.

The grant stems from the 1994 Crime Bill, which established the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to put more police in the community.

Anne Arundel police received one of more than 300 Community Policing to Combat Domestic Violence grants.

Nearly 800 departments applied nationwide.

Pub Date: 6/30/96

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