New Tool Introduced to Fight Domestic Violence

Gale Horton Gay | 10/30/2012, 7:03 p.m.

In the fight against domestic violence, a new tool is being introduced in Prince George's County to identify high-risk victims of abuse and connect them with resource services.

State and local officials and representatives of law enforcement and domestic violence victims' groups gathered last week at Hyattsville District Court to announce that all 30 local law enforcement agencies in Prince George's County will adopt use of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence's Lethality Assessment Program [LAP].

LAP is a screening instrument used at the scene to identify victims of intimate partner domestic violence who are at the greatest risk of being killed. Law enforcement officers immediately connect those individuals to local domestic violence programs and services.

"The adoption of the Lethality Assessment Program will make families, communities, and victims of domestic violence safer," said Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards [D-Md.]. "It is also a testament to the great work we can accomplish when advocates and various levels of government unite under one common goal: ending domestic violence."

Putting victims in touch with services as soon as possible can reduce domestic violence-related homicides, serious assaults and repeat victimization, according to information from Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown's office.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III and Brown were among the officials who announced the new program on Oct. 23.

Brown's interest in reducing domestic violence was spurred by a family tragedy. In 2008, Brown's cousin, Catherine Brown, 40, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in Montgomery County.

"I can't say whether any of the particular things we have done would necessarily have saved my cousin Cathy's life, but I can say there are countless women and children in our community whose lives will be saved," said Brown.

Brown said he and Gov. Martin O'Malley set a goal of decreasing domestic violence rates 25 percent by the end of the year.

"The good news is that domestic violence-related homicide is down 11.5 percent since 2006 and assaults are down 16.8 percent since 2006," Brown said. "We are making progress toward that goal. We still have work to do. One domestic violence-related homicide is one too many."

The LAP will be implemented in coordination with the Family Crisis Center Inc. of Prince George's County, the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention [GOCCP] and the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.To implement the LAP in Prince George's County, GOCCP will award $217,650 in grant funds.

"LAP was a model developed here in Maryland, so it makes sense that we lead the nation in fully utilizing this tool to aid domestic violence victims in each Maryland county," said GOCCP Executive Director Tammy Brown.

The program is expected to be implemented countywide by the beginning of 2013. More than 2,000 officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in the county will receive specialized training. The agencies include: Prince George's County Police Department, Prince George's County Sheriff's Office, all 24 of the county's municipal police departments, Maryland Capital Park Police of Prince George's County as well as the police departments of the University of Maryland, Bowie State University and Prince George's Community College.

Currently, 88 police departments in Maryland use lethality assessments, including the Baltimore Police Department. The ultimate goal is to implement lethality assessments statewide.

"We have already seen tremendous success with the LAP program across the state, and I know that bringing this program to Prince George's County is going to save lives," said Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks. "As leaders in our community, we have a responsibility to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and this will be another tool to help us ensure the safety of all those we are privileged to serve."