Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Dvcc

10/01/1996

The DVCC is the major coordination effort in Baltimore. Because the membership is predominantly criminal justice oriented, this is the strongest area of coordination. As previously noted, members know each other well from the DVCC and other professional contacts. As a result, they have developed informal relationships and trust that some people felt were key to the DVCC's success. At times, however, this closeness makes it difficult for the committee to address conflicts among its members.

A number of people stressed the importance of the DVCC coordinator for the committee's effectiveness. Because her sole focus is the DVCC, she can follow up with members to ensure that issues brought up during one meeting are addressed before the next meeting. This is extremely important for quick turnaround on projects, and can be critical for initiatives like a joint grant proposal. She also serves as a link between the main DVCC group, the ad hoc committees, and the workgroup. The coordinator provides continuity to the community's efforts by ensuring that issues raised by one committee are brought to the attention of another committee and are not simply dropped. She also identifies positions that are not represented at the DVCC meetings and tries to bring these issues into the discussions. DVCC participants agree that the coordinator's efforts over the past two years have had a remarkable impact on the productivity of the committee, and that the DVCC will be affected by the loss of a coordinator.

The DVCC workgroup plays a unique role in the coordination effort because it is the sole forum where, on a regular basis, front-line workers keep informed about policy changes in other agencies and address coordination issues. Most workgroup members are the designated personnel or staff from the specialized units in the various criminal justice agencies; however, a wider number of agencies participate in the workgroup than are represented on the DVCC, including court commissioners, court clerks, and the division of juvenile services. The number of members has grown so large that the workgroup now meets in a courtroom, and one workgroup member described the meetings as "powerful."

Most of the DVCC's current initiatives are outlined in the VAW grant, with the Domestic Violence Court being one of the major grant objectives. Under the direction of Judge Rinehardt, the Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence Court is developing criteria to select cases, since one docket cannot handle all domestic violence cases. The importance of a judge on this committee cannot be underestimated. Another ad hoc committee is examining problems with protection order service, since many requests for orders are dropped because the party cannot be served. With the assistance of Judge Caplan, the committee has been researching alternatives for service and will make recommendations to the full DVCC shortly.

DVCC members are also working on several levels to improve information systems. Each criminal justice agency has its own database, and the DVCC's goal is to link these data to provide comprehensive information on domestic violence cases from arrest to post-conviction. The VAW grant provides funding for computers to allow specialized units to monitor their own efforts. The DVCC is also working to improve the comparability of information across the various criminal justice agencies. They worked with the new Central Booking Facility to identify statistics they would like the facility to generate from its database. The DVCC is now able to receive information on domestic violence related arrests broken down by the demographic characteristics of the perpetrator and the victim.

There are also ongoing initiatives to provide training and technical support. For example, the DVCC has hired four national domestic violence experts to meet with the workgroup and the police district commanders this summer. The committee is trying to fund more "train the trainers" sessions to enable individual agencies to train new staff. The DVCC also provides technical assistance to other jurisdictions in Maryland and other states. Many visitors attend the DVCC meetings or meet with specialized units to learn how they could implement a similar effort in their communities. The DVCC has also identified a goal to expand its current focus beyond domestic violence to other forms of violence against women. To this end, the DVCC recently added the Sexual Assault Center to its membership and is also funding a manual for employers on violence against women in the workplace.

The DVCC facilitates joint fundraising among member agencies. Members inform each other about proposals that they submit and sometimes work together on joint projects. For example, House of Ruth and Baltimore District Court explored the possibility of jointly applying for funding for their involvement in the proposed Domestic Violence Court.