Douglas County prosecutors and Lawrence police say they want to work in 2011 to reduce incidents of domestic violence.
The district attorney’s office and police department have received grants to fund positions for a prosecutor and detective to investigate and prosecute domestic violence and other crimes against women.
“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to enhance our services and, most importantly, provide an avenue of constant contact with victims from domestic violence from the detective to the prosecutor,” District Attorney Charles Branson said.
Matt Sarna, Lawrence police’s public affairs sergeant, said the department would set benchmarks and goals for the new position. He said in 2009 officers responded to 975 domestic disturbance calls and investigated 71 rapes, 598 incidents of domestic battery, plus 24 sexual battery and 11 stalking cases.
“Our goal is to educate the public on these crimes and the importance of reporting them,” Sarna said. “We would like to see a decrease in all of these numbers.”
The grants, made available by the federal STOP Violence Against Woman Act, are administered through the governor’s office. City and county leaders have until Thursday to accept the grants.
A request from interim police chief Tarik Khatib is on tonight’sTuesday’s consent agenda for city commissioners to match nearly $18,000 for the $53,613 grant.
Sarna said the one-year grant would essentially allow for promotion of an officer to detective to investigate violent crimes against women and then the hiring of a new officer to replace the detective.
Branson said Douglas County commissioners will likely consider his office’s request on Wednesday. The matching funds would include fringe benefits for the new prosecutor and the cost of office equipment.
Even though funding is only guaranteed for one year, he’s hopeful about money for future years.
Domestic violence cases can be difficult to prosecute, Branson said, because the victims and offenders know each other and have a relationship beyond the criminal prosecution. But he said the cases are too common in Douglas County.
“One of the things we’re looking to do is educate (victims) about the system and better understand how the system can help them and then make a good decision based upon all that information,” Branson said, “to try to resolve the case in a fashion to where they won’t need us in the future.”