The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 12, 2012

Our View: A needed program to fight domestic violence

— A new program in Blue Earth County to improve judicial and law enforcement response to domestic violence cases offers hope to victims that they will be protected.

A task force aimed at addressing domestic violence formed about two years ago was prompted by almost half a dozen domestic homicides in the Mankato region. The group unveiled the Blue Print for Safety plan this week that is patterned after one that has shown positive results in St. Paul and Ramsey County.

The new program sets rules for dealing with suspects and ensuring victims are heard and protected. It increases communication between law enforcement, the courts and social agencies like domestic violence shelters.

The county program received a $120,000 grant that was awarded to CADA, the domestic violence shelter and program in Mankato. The plan kicked off with a three-day training in Mankato this week. The new plan calls for law enforcement agencies to adjust their protocols when responding to domestic violence cases.

In Blue Earth County that will mean officers at an assault scene arrest the suspect if still present, and if not, make sure the suspect doesn't return or isn't still in the area. There are additional checkbacks set up and officers will also provide information to the victim on domestic assault services of CADA and other agencies.

The new protocols also help officers determine the seriousness of the situation by checking on orders for protection, previous stalking incidents and if the suspect owns guns. Courts will be charged with making sure orders for protection are enforced and that warrants for arrest are acted upon.

When the program was implemented in St. Paul, the number of domestic violence cases dropped to 9,000 from 15,000 per year. We hope we can see as large a reduction in the Mankato area. It will be important after a year to measure the impact of the program to see how it is working.

Domestic violence is a crime that is often unreported or under-reported. That's because there are risks for victims in reporting. They must live with the fear that the abuser will get out and strike again.

The attention all agencies involved in domestic violence will give to the new effort will hopefully send a message to those who would abuse. It should tell them they are being watched and that orders for protection will be enforced.

Programs like this only work if everyone, every agency and the public does its part. Agencies have to be vigilant and the public must remember it has a responsibility to report cases of domestic violence. Lives may depend on that.

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