CITY OF TAMARAC, FL
Mayor Joe Schreiber

Community Policing to Combat Domestic Violence

Law enforcement response to domestic violence has dramatically changed across the nation over the past 20 years. Despite an aggressive approach on the part of the criminal justice system, the incidents of domestic violence continue to increase.

An examination of the problem in Tamarac revealed that in approximately 40% of the reported incidents of domestic violence, the victims refused to cooperate with follow-up investigation necessary to successfully prosecute their case. As a result, a significant number of offenders had their charges dropped and were never punished or forced into a treatment program. The cycle of violence was allowed to continue. The offender frequently resumed a relationship with the victim, and the assaultive behavior would occur again.

The Community Policing to Combat Domestic Violence program's objective is to provide the prosecuting attorneys with the documentation necessary to insure that they can go forward even without the victim's cooperation. We discovered that if the victim was contacted immediately for follow-up, law enforcement stood a better chance of documenting the case.

To accomplish this initiative, police personnel were equipped with instant cameras and tape recorders. When responding to calls of domestic violence, the officer photographs injuries and evidence of violence, and obtains a sworn statements. The 911 complain call is recorded and a copy is made for the prosecutor.

In addition, a video tape made in cooperation with Women in Distress, a not-for-profit social service agency, is distributed. The video provides the victim with an explanation of the criminal justice process. The video also discusses the common problem of victim/offender reassociation.

The effectiveness of the program is initially measured by the increased number of cases prosecuted. A secondary measurement is the reduction in the percentage of repeat victim/offender couples.

The program was initiated in November of 1996, and operates under an approximate annual budget of $200,000 in county and federal funding. This funding supports the work of 250 police personnel, 18 civilian employees and 10 volunteers.

CONTACT: Lt. Richard Scheff, 2601 West Broward Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, Telephone - (954) 321-4238, Fax - (954) 797-0928.

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