A study found Buchanan County is one of only four counties in the state that has double the state average of domestic assault cases. One program that was implemented a year ago has proven successful in an attempt in reducing those numbers.
The Lethality Assessment program was implemented by the Buchanan County Sheriffs Department, the St. Joseph Police Department and the YWCA on Aug. 1, 2016. Kim Kempf, with Victim Services of the YWCA, was instrumental in implementing the program. She said when the program first began, she was given the average number of domestic violence calls in other counties and Buchanan County stood out.
“We are quite a bit above what would be expected, and our percentage of high danger is higher than the average,” Kempf said.
Sgt. Jason Strong works with the Family Crimes Unit with the St. Joseph Police Department and he said the program is used when there is a domestic violence call between intimate partners, not just family members. The program requires officers to screen victims on the scene of the incident. Kempf explained the process.
“Whenever a law enforcement officer is called to the scene of a domestic dispute involving intimate partners, they administrator an 11-question survey. It’s really quick but it gives a description of what’s going on,” Kempf said.
If a victim is considered high-risk then the police call the YWCA hotline and arrange services for the victim if they are willing to receive the services.
After one year of the program, the statistics show victims are being receptive to the process and services. Police screened 934 victims since the program began in 2016 and 80 percent of those victims scored in the high danger zone. Sixty-nine percent of victims agreed to speak with a hotline worker and 44 percent received victim services through the YWCA.
Both the police and YWCA have noticed a change.
“Our percentage of people who later come in for services is higher than what they’ve had in other areas,” Kempf said.
“We’re reaching victims today through our Lethality Assessment Program that we weren’t reaching two years ago,” Strong said. “I think the numbers will stay high for the next year or so, but hopefully we’ll make an impact and we won’t have people falling back into that cycle of violence.”
Of the people screened, the Lethality Assessment Program saw 79 percent of people using victim services for the first time.