Utah Communities Try New Approach to Prevent Domestic Violence Homicides
A new pilot program intended to prevent domestic violence homicides in Utah has just launched. One women’s shelter in Cedar City is seeing results in just one week.
Cindy Baldwin is executive director of Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis center in Cedar City. She says the vast majority of women who are killed in domestic violence situations never access services. Most of them have had contact with law enforcement, though. Police usually give victims information about resources, but Baldwin says it’s not enough.
“If you hand them a card and say here are these services, you should call them, they usually don’t pick up the phone and make that call,” Baldwin says.
But in four communities across Utah, law enforcement has received training in another approach. It’s called Lethality Assessment Protocol, first developed in Maryland and now being used in multiple states. A law enforcement officer asks a series of questions to assess a victim’s risk. Questions like, ‘Has he ever used a weapon against you? Has he threatened to kill you or your children?’ Based on those answers, an officer determines if the victim is at high risk and can contact the crisis center directly on that person’s behalf. Baldwin says these steps fill a gap that just might save lives.
“It’s connecting those victims and making them aware of services that they just weren’t aware of before,” she says. “It’s opening that avenue and that other possibility and that choice for them to get out.”
Baldwin says her center has been working with Cedar City police on the new protocol for a week now, and they’ve already identified three people at high risk who have received help with obtaining a protective order or relocation. This pilot project is also underway in Davis County, Cache County, and West Jordan. It’s supported by one-time funds allocated by the state legislature.