Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut is the first state to implement a domestic violence lethality assessment tool that allows law enforcement to identify individuals who have an increased risk of fatal violence.

The assessment tool, first piloted in Ansonia, allows an officer within minutes to determine with a series of 11 questions if a victim is in danger. The law enforcement officer will put them on the phone with a service provider at the scene.

“It’s meant to understand their risk and safety,” Karen Jarmoc, president of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said.

The program was instituted statewide in Connecticut without a mandate and without any state funding. It’s part of what makes the program so unique.

“This is a program where domestic violence providers and law enforcement have decided that this is necessary, it’s important,” Jarmoc said.

Between October 2012 and September 2017, 93 percent of Connecticut’s law enforcement agencies were fully utilizing the assessment tool and performed 22,566 screens. At least 11,449 of those were considered high danger and of those individuals 8,392 spoke with a counselor and 7,444 followed up for services.

Last year, according to arrest reports, there were 12,894 intimate partner violence arrests, which is “one-third of all cases in the criminal court system,” Jarmoc said.

The screen itself takes less than five minutes to conduct and evaluate a person for potential immediate referral to domestic violence services.

Watertown Police Chief John Gavallas said as soon as they started using the assessment tool they saw an increase in the victims who took advantage of “the safety and the services provided.”

He said this program has saved “many lives.”

“The essence of this is to get a victim of domestic violence into services immediately,” Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale said.

Before the program they would hand victims a card with a phone number to call for services, which weren’t always available at the time the incident occurred. If something happened on the weekend and services weren’t available until Monday, by that time apologies were made and the complaint was often forgotten as the victim forgave the abuser.

Under the new protocol the individual determined to be the victim by law enforcement is given an opportunity right then and there to place a phone call for services.

Jarmoc said it’s too soon to say whether the program is working, but intimate partner fatalities are down from 15 per year to about 12 per year. This year the state has already experienced eight.

Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence press conference on lethality assessment.

Posted by on Thursday, November 16, 2017