Domestic Violence (DV) Unit
The Salisbury Police Department has assigned Officer James Leavitt as it’s full time DV Investigator, reporting to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). The DV Investigator responds to or follows up on all calls that are “domestic” in nature. The DV Investigator is part of a multi-jurisdictional regional DV High Risk Task Force including members of surrounding police departments, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, Essex County District Attorney’s Office, Newburyport District Court Probation Office, Essex County Sheriff’s Office, Anna Jaques Hospital, and the Holy Family Hospital Batterer Intervention Program.
The DV High Risk Team
The DV High Risk Team meets monthly to discuss potential “high risk” cases that may need additional support or attention from the resources that are readily available. Some of these resources include extra police patrols for those folks with high risk domestic violence situations, additional follow up by phone, or other protective services based on the needs of the victim. The team will discuss each case individually and mutually agree to accept the case to the team. Once a case is accepted, it is then tracked for repeat offenses, or escalation of violence. This additional attention to a DV high risk case could end up being the difference between life or death for the victim.
The DV Rapid Response Team
A team approach is VITAL in linking victims with support services in the community to help them safely rebuild their lives. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it takes a community to effectively combat domestic violence. Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy thing to do. It is not an event…it is a process.
The Rapid Response Team was established to provide immediate crisis intervention to the victims of domestic violence under a joint grant from the Department of Justice. The goal of the team is to provide support and options to victims and to encourage the prosecution of the perpetrator. Communities, including ours, have witnessed a reduction in repeat calls to homes where there is ongoing domestic violence, and and increase in the number of successfully prosecuted court cases for domestic assault and domestic assault and battery utilizing this approach.
How the Team Works
When the police respond to a domestic violence incident, a lay advocate is requested to respond to the police department to meet with the victim and to provide immediate crisis intervention to the victim. The advocates are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The advocates assess the victim’s emotional, medical and legal needs, and offer support and services. Advocates will stay with the victim as long as necessary to provide support, options, and additional DV services. *Whenever feasible, a female advocate will be requested for female victims.
Civilian Advocates receive 58 hours of instruction prior to their participation on the team, including training in crisis intervention counseling, victim advocacy, and their role in police procedures. A criminal records check is completed on all volunteers before selection as an advocate.
DV Advocates are an equal partner in combating DV with the Salisbury Police. Advocates give undivided attention to the need of the victim. Therefore, the police officer can focus his/her attention on making an arrest, booking the perpetrator, and completing a thorough investigation. Advocates will assist with the completion of the application for an emergency restraining order and stay with the victim. Victims are asked to sign a release of information form to permit the advocate to discuss the victim’s situation with the police in order to advocate on his/her behalf. From a law enforcement perspective, the goal of the Rapid Response Team is to assist the victim in making informed decisions about the criminal and civil complaints made against the batterer, and to encourage prosecution in cases where a crime has been committed.
Advocates can assist and offer the victim the following services:
1. Safety Planning Advocates help the victim devise a safe way to leave the battering situation or to return home to a safe environment. Cellular phones are programmed to dial 911 and in-home emergency responder units are available to high-risk victims.
2. Emergency Restraining Orders Advocates assist with the application for an emergency restraining order after normal court hours on weekends and holidays with the cooperation of the victim. The Abuse Prevention Act (Mass General Law Chapter 209A) was created to protect people who are battered. With the assistance of the police, an on-call judge is consulted, and he/she can issue an emergency order that would be valid until the next court business day.
An emergency order can be obtained after court hours 365 days a year.
3. Emergency Shelter Safe, secret housing can be provided to the victim and any children involved on a temporary basis at no cost. In addition, referrals to shelters and transitional housing can be made.
4. Court Advocacy Court advocates from the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center are available daily at the Newburyport District Court to assist victims in obtaining protective orders. They assist the victim in filing an affidavit and stand with the victim in the courtroom before the judge.
5. Counseling One-on-one or group sessions. Ongoing support groups are available to victims. Individual crisis counseling for adults and children and parenting skills classes are available.
6. Child Advocacy Creative play groups and art therapy classes for children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence are available to the victim’s children.
7. Legal Advocacy Legal specialists at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center are available to offer clients assistance with legal issues such as divorce, custody, and visitation. Referrals to lawyers are also available.
8. 24 Hour Hotline Information, crisis counseling and referrals are offered on a 24-hour basis by calling (978) 388-1888. All calls are strictly confidential.
9. Referrals to Community Resources Information on and referrals to community social services include substance abuse counseling, housing, welfare, healthcare, batterers’ treatment programs, elder services, HIV services, food stamps, job training, and food pantries.
As a victim of domestic violence, it is already understood that emotions may be running high, and there may be a sense of confusion as to what assistance is available, and what may happen upon police intervention. When there is a police officer on the scene, it is important to remember that the police officer is a professional who has the ability to help. This can begin the process of healing through assistance and the offering of support services. When the police officer asks the victim if they would like services, the following is a sample of what can happen:
1. The victim will be asked by the police officer if they want assistance. This will be highly encouraged by the police officer.
2. If the victim wants assistance, then the victim will respond to the police department. Assistance with getting there can be arranged.
3. The police will contact a lay advocate to respond, and a response will be quick.
4. The victim will meet with an advocate to discuss support services and assistance with an emergency restraining order.
5. The victim will be provided with information from the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center on services that are available.
6. The victim will have the opportunity to speak with the police in a safe environment.
7. The police will speak with an on-call judge to obtain an emergency restraining order. This order will only be in effect until the next available court business day.
8. Advocates from the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center will be available at court on the next business day to assist with getting the order extended for a period of time, and the advocates will stay with the victim from the application process to the court hearing in front of the judge.
9. Ongoing follow up services will be offered both from the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center and the police department.
More Online Resources
DTA Domestic Violence Unit
The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), formerly known as the Department of Public Welfare