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High Point police see success with approach to domestic violence cases

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HIGH POINT, N.C. — It's time to speak up.

That's the message behind Domestic Violence Awareness month. It's a time to raise awareness and show support for the victims and the organizations that aid people in our community dealing with this crime.

FOX8's Lindsay Tuman spoke with the High Point Police Department about their efforts to fight against domestic violence. High Point police use a different method for domestic violence offenders. It's called the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative, or OFDVI.

"Really the foundation of it is, if someone whose name we know is being repeatedly abused by someone else whose name we know, then as a community we should be able to make that stop. If we're calling it domestic violence, it's not a whodunit. We know who did it, and as a community, we should make that stop," High Point Police Captain Tim Ellenberger said.

With this program, police keep close tabs of every domestic violence offender they have come in contact with. Each one gets a ranking of A, B, C or D.

'D' offenders don't have a history of domestic violence, but they were involved in a disturbance call. Officers place this group of people on a watch list and try to use intervention methods to prevent them from being involved in domestic violence again.

'C' offenders are people with first-time domestic violence charges. Law enforcement will give them a face-to-face message to stop them from re-offending.

The 'B' list are considered chronic offenders, people with two domestic violence charges. The intervention efforts are ramped up even more, and they are warned about the stiffest legal penalties they will face.

The 'A' list is considered the most violent and repeat offenders. They have the most domestic violence charges and could be a convicted felon or someone who has used a weapon in a domestic violence case. These are the people law enforcement will be sure to use the strictest legal penalties and prosecution.

From when the program started in April 2012 until August 2019, High Point Police have put around 3,000 people on the list. Around 18.4% total have gone on to commit another act of domestic violence. 57 people are considered 'A' list offenders, and 8 have them have committed another act, which is a 14% recidivism rate. Those are the cases police make sure are getting the most attention and the biggest consequences.

"We document a lot more now. Our officers are much better trained than I ever was. Our officers do a much better job investigating these incidents than I ever did just because that's where we're putting our emphasis. So we have a lot more information when an offender goes before a judge because the reports are better and the judge can make better decisions because we have a better investigation," Captain Ellenberger said.

It's also a crime High Point police see a lot of. Across the week of Sept. 15 through 19, police got 58 calls for domestic violence. 37 of those calls were for a problem with intimate partners, and 14 cases ended in an arrest.

On average officers might respond to four to seven calls a day.

"I'm not so concerned about reducing the number of calls as reducing the number of injuries. Because it's a very under-reported crime so, if we're providing more consistent response and we're doing a better job handling these types of incidents, we should expect more people to call," he said.

Police say their approach is only part of the solution. Collaboration with other agencies is also crucial to help stop this issue.

"I think where we went wrong in all the years leading up to this is the police department had a strategy but it didn't involve the other partners. Or the prosecutors had a strategy to deal with it but it didn't involve the other partners in the community. So what we realized is, law enforcement, we're just a piece of it," Captain Ellenberger said.

He said the High Point Family Justice Center, which is celebrating its first anniversary, has been a big help in handling these cases in the best way possible.

The High Point Police Department works hand-in-hand with the center. Five detectives and a supervisor work with the center as part of a special victims unit. Together these agencies are able to provide the best services for the victims, and also help prosecute the cases more effectively.

"All of those partners are in one place working together to ensure safety for the victims and so that's kind of what our strategy is. Multidisciplinary teams that can fix processes, gaps in services and deal with particular offenders," he said.

This is also important because domestic violence can impact everyone in the home.

"It's not just contained in a home so if children witnessed violence in their home and then goes wherever the next day, school, preschool, work, wherever, they carry those problems with them," he said.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Family Service of the Piedmont’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline at (336) 273-7273.

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