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DA’s office gets domestic violence prevention grant

  • SULLIVAN



For The Recorder
Thursday, October 12, 2017

More resources for the prevention of domestic violence are coming here with the recent award of a $450K federal grant to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

The three-year grant, Improving Criminal Justice Response, was renewed on Oct. 1 after the DA’s office won a competitive application process through the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

“We are thrilled to receive these funds, which will strengthen our ability to identify the most serious domestic violence cases and to work together to protect victims and prevent future domestic violence homicides,” Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement.

Now Mary Kociela, the office’s director of domestic violence projects, says there is a special focus on improving the “High Risk Team Project.”

“We were looking at our response to domestic violence and identifying places you need to fill in gaps,” Kociela said. “Now all our first responders and community advocates have been trained to identify when a domestic violence case is a high-risk case.”

The High Risk Team Project combines the expertise of law enforcement and first responders, from the Northampton Police Department, health care providers, the Hampshire County House of Corrections, the Center for Women and Community, and others to identify and contain the most dangerous domestic violence offenders.

The grant will allow the DA’s office to reinstate the team’s full-time project coordinator for the next three years. The grant will also help fund a full-time domestic violence survivor advocate position, increase support and follow-up with victims of nonfatal strangulation, and provide training for emergency medical technicians and dispatchers on the best practices to deal with survivors of sexual assault.

“Unfortunately, it is a crime often viewed as a family problem,” Kociela said. “People feel ashamed and don’t come forward until it’s very, very serious.”

Using the grant, first responders are trained to recognize traits of high-risk offenders like the use of weapons or strangulation. In these cases offenders could receive heightened probation, frequent police surveillance, or be denied parole.

“At the time we first did it, we were one of the first teams. We’ve even trained other programs,” Kociela said. “The city of Northampton and the Northampton Police Department have over the years worked together to apply for these funds and they’ve been hugely instrumental in all the work we’ve been doing.”

Before the High Risk Team Project began in 2010, there were 15 domestic violence homicides over a 12-year period in the Northwestern district, which covers Hampshire and Franklin counties and the town of Athol. After a steady decline, the district saw a five-year period with no domestic violence homicides between June 2012 and June 2017.

The July 2017 killing of Amanda Glover in Wendell is a solemn reminder of the ever-present need for domestic violence prevention work.

“We attribute this decline, in large part, to the success of the high-risk team model and the increased monitoring and containment of domestic violence high-risk offenders,” Kociela said.