CITY OF AURORA, CO
Mayor Paul E. Tauer
 

Domestic Violence Reduction Unit

In July 1995, the Aurora Police Department initiated a partnership with Mutual Ground, Inc., a women's shelter that serves southern Kane and Kendall Counties. A Domestic Violence Core Group was developed to review the police response to domestic violence. The Core Group was made up of a total of ten service providers and police department personnel. A site visit was made to Portland, Oregon, by five members of the Core Group to view their integrated response to domestic violence.

The Core Group felt that in order for any part of the initiative to work, the entire criminal justice system and social services system must be unified in purpose. It became increasingly clear that the coordination of services, communication among agencies, as well as a unified, clear vision of what constituted an effective system, were the elements needed to comprehensively address the issues which contribute to domestic violence. It was their goal to pursue specific collaborative solutions to the underlying cause of this problem through the sharing of information amongst the various agencies.

The unification of the criminal justice system was referred to as "Vertical Integration." Vertical Integration, or moving up the ladder of the system, hoped to present a consistent arrest procedure (police), prosecution (state's attorney), sentencing (judiciary) and monitoring (parole and probation) of the abuser.

The "Horizontal Integration" is a broad base of the social services made available to victims, collateral victims and, through the sentencing of the judiciary, would mandate Man's Anger Recovery Support (MARS) for the abuser, as well as monitoring by parole and probation personnel.

In addition, the Aurora Police Department initiated and completed a three-hour, six-part, roll-call training program for domestic violence. The program consisted of an explanation of the size and scope of the problem; a review of the proper procedures regarding orders of protection; a review of in-custody procedures required by state law and department policy; and an emphasis on the importance of referring victims to basic services.

The Core Group established the criteria and selected candidates for the Domestic Violence Reduction Unit (DVRU). The DVRU will consist of sixteen members at full strength -- twelve patrol officers, three sergeants and one lieutenant. Currently the DVRU has eight patrol officers, three sergeants and one lieutenant. Each DVRU member has received 80 hours of intensive training specifically designed to aid in the recognition, intervention, investigation, prosecution and education of domestic violence.

The DVRU is currently networking with Prairie State Legal Services, a not-for-profit legal service, to assist victims in removing the obstacles that keep victims with abusers -including child support, maintenance for housing, clothing and transportation.

The DVRU also requested and received funding for a "site hardening" project. The site hardening project is a system that requires an order of protection to grant exclusive occupancy to the victim of domestic violence. Once the order of protection is obtained, special high security locks are installed at the victim's residence. Keys cannot be duplicated except by the owner of record of the lock (Aurora Police Department) which prevents the victim from giving the abuser a key. In easily accessed sites, an additional secure room would receive a lock to further secure the victim's safety for a limited time. Electronic dialer systems that call the police, activated by a device possessed by the victim, would be used in cases where the threat of imminent or implied bodily harm was made.

An integral part of the initiative is the Domestic Violence Intervention Software (DVIS). DVIS is a complete, customized information system which provides technical assistance to the DVRU. It enables the DVRU to direct its efforts to "at-risk" families. Clients can be tracked from their initial "911" call for service all the way through to the receipt of social services. Its database provides queries through a variety of criteria, such as previous violent crimes, weapons used, names and demographics.

This translates into the linking of general offense and "911" call data to produce comprehensive case histories; the ranking of high-risk models by individual or location; the tracking of individuals and households actively involved in domestic violence; a continuous monitoring of a family or household to determine whether there is a progression of violence and a need for intervention; and the tracking of intervention efforts and referral services by individual and total DVRU efforts.

The DVRU recently began a pilot program in the schools to address domestic violence. The program is a cooperative effort between Mutual Ground, Inc. and the Aurora Police Department, and is being developed so that it may be presented to all levels K-12. It is currently being taught at 4th, 7th and 9th grade levels. The program examines how sex role stereotypes set up an imbalance of power in relationships; defines domestic violence and examines the continuum on which it occurs; identifies the cycle of abuse and the role it plays in violent relationships; and creates an awareness of the legal implications and consequences of domestic violence.

The DVRU, Mutual Ground, Inc., and Praire State Legal Services are now all housed in the same space. With the three agencies in one structure, victims of domestic violence have better access to comprehensive services.

The DVRU is funded by the police budget and city block grant with an approximate annual budget of $155,000 which excludes personnel expenses. This funding supports the work of 16 police personnel, two civilian employees, and the 60 Steering and Core Committee members.

CONTACT: Lt. Doug Needham, 350 N. River Street, Aurora, IL 60506, Telephone - (630) 801-6765, Fax - (630) 896-1187.

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