Protocol to prevent domestic violence lauded

From July 2014 through September 2015, about two-thirds of the 316 Chester County residents identified as possessing a high risk for domestic violence received preventive services, according to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

Flanked by Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei (left) and District Attorney Tom Hogan, West Goshen Police Chief Joseph Gleason receives an award for participating in the LAP program from Dolly Wideman-Scott, CEO of the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County.

Flanked by Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei (left) and District Attorney Tom Hogan (right), West Goshen Police Chief Joseph Gleason receives an award for participating in the LAP program from Dolly Wideman-Scott, CEO of the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County.

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced in a press release that Chester County leads the state in its use of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), considered a best practice to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence.

“LAP is about saving lives.  Many victims do not realize the danger they are in at the hands of their abusers until they go through the LAP screening or are already badly injured, and the latter is too late,” Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei, the county’s lead domestic violence prosecutor, said in the release.  “Once the LAP screening takes place, domestic violence victims hopefully will recognize the danger and reach out for the services that we have available here in Chester County.  The goal is to identify the danger before the case turns into a homicide.”

LAP is a comprehensive protocol followed by police when responding to domestic violence calls.  LAP uses a series of screening questions that have been proven to be strong predictors of both past and future extreme violence.  Some of these questions include: (1) Has he/she ever tried to kill himself/herself? (2) Does he/she have a gun, or can he/she get one easily? and (3) Do you have a child that he/she knows is not his/hers?

Application of LAP provides two primary benefits.  First, LAP is a strong predictive tool.  The data gathered from LAP allows the police to determine which domestic violence incidents are likely to accelerate later into extreme violence.  The police can use this information to allocate resources effectively for these cases, potentially preventing a homicide.

Secondly, following the guidelines in LAP protects victims by providing them immediate access to the services of the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County (DVCCC), which has resources to provide counseling, shelter, and other immediate needs for domestic violence victims.

Thirty-five police departments in Chester County have been trained on how to implement the LAP protocol and 30 of those departments are actively using LAP.  From July 1, 2014, through September 2015, Chester County police departments screened 479 victims, 201 of whom received services.

Dolly Wideman-Scott, CEO of the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County (DVCCC), praised the practice.

“LAP gets victims to services faster,” she said in the release.  “We know when the police are at the scene of a domestic violence situation, victims will get connected to life-saving services provided by the Domestic Violence Center and this will impact their safety.”

DVCCC has awarded certificates of appreciation to the participating police departments, which include Kennett Square, Lincoln University, New Garden, Westtown-East Goshen, West Goshen, West Chester, and West Whiteland.

“Some of the most chilling homicides in Chester County have been the result of domestic violence…,” said Hogan in the release.  “The LAP protocol gives law enforcement a powerful tool to combat domestic abuse.  Moreover, victims are empowered to seek help and made aware of the danger they are in. “

 

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