Leahy Announces $200,000 Grant To Target Domestic Violence Homicides In Rutland

. . . 1 of only 12 awards nationwide, Rutland’s comes a week after enactment of Leahy’s bill to renew the landmark Violence Against Women Act

RUTLAND, Vt. (THURSDAY, March 14, 2013) -- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday announced that the City of Rutland will receive a $200,000 federal grant to combat domestic violence homicides – a crime category that accounts for more than half of all homicides in Vermont.  The award comes just one week after Leahy’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) was signed into law, renewing and strengthening its proven programs.

Rutland is one of only 12 sites across the nation receiving these grants as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s new Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration (DVHP) Initiative, funded in last year’s budget under the Grants to Encourage Arrests Program.  That program – strengthened by the new Leahy law, is a major overall component of the original VAWA that supports initiatives to prevent domestic violence homicides.  The new DVHP Initiative grants, including Rutland’s, will help state and local jurisdictions reduce domestic violence homicides by effectively identifying potential victims and monitoring high-risk offenders.  Once at-risk victims are identified, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, courts and service providers can take steps to protect them and their families.

Leahy said, “VAWA is about protecting people and their families from harm and helping them recover when domestic violence strikes, but best of all is when we can help prevent violence in the first place.  The hard work of law enforcement agencies and service providers is preventing tragedy and helping victims rebuild their lives every day.  This new grant and the new law that these Vermonters were so instrumental in helping us pass will allow them to rescue even more lives.”

He continued, “I will never forget the horrific crime scenes I went to as a prosecutor, where I vividly saw the devastating results of unchecked domestic violence.  I hope the important work this grant will fund in Rutland, and the many other efforts that VAWA makes possible in communities throughout Vermont and across the country, will help us make further progress toward making those terrible scenes a thing of the past.”

According to the State of Vermont’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission Report, between 1994 and 2011, 51 percent of all Vermont homicides were related to domestic violence; based on the 2010 Vermont Crime Report, nearly 65 percent of violent crime in Vermont occurs within residences, meaning that homes are the most common locations for violent crime.

The Rutland Police Department and the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter have established a successful collaborative relationship, which results in increased safety for victims and greater perpetrator accountability.  The new Rutland grant will help significantly expand this collaboration and increase safety for victims. Rutland City Police Chief James Baker said the city partnered with the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to develop the model.

“We are pretty excited to be a part of it,” Chief Baker said of the new initiative.  “We recognize that domestic violence is part of the challenge we face in Rutland City as a result of substance abuse and mental health issues.  We plan on using the money to bring a better coordination effort between the police, the advocates, prosecutors and the courts.”

Chief Baker said this coordination will allow police to focus on high-risk cases by assessing levels of violence in domestic relationships, using evidence-based methods that have proven successful in other parts of the country. “This is the perfect fit,” he said.  “We will have a pretty good process in place to deal with some of these underlying social issues.”

Karen Tronsgard-Scott, executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said, "We are delighted to be a part of the collaboration that exists in the City of Rutland, and we look forward to working with Chief Jim Baker of the Rutland Police Department and Marianne Kennedy, the executive director of the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter, to create a new level of safety and accountability in Rutland."

Since passage of VAWA in 1994, annual rates of domestic violence have fallen by more than 60 percent.  Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote and sponsored the law’s reauthorization.  He sought out Republican Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) as his lead Republican partner in the effort.  Leahy made VAWA a top priority for early action in the new 113th Congress and in recent weeks shepherded his bipartisan bill through sizable bipartisan victories in both the Senate and the House.  President Obama signed the Leahy-Crapo bill into law on March 7 in a ceremony in Washington.  

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