The state’s biggest domestic violence agency announced Wednesday that it will embed a domestic violence worker at the Hartford Police Department -- a partnership that advocates hope can save lives.
Interval House’s collaboration with Hartford police is part of a larger effort to partner directly with local law enforcement to ensure “we reach more victims before it’s too late,” Mary-Jane Foster, Interval House president and CEO, said in a statement.
Hartford police say they field more than 3,000 domestic violence calls every year. Officers are trained to focus on the offender -- collecting evidence and building a case. Abusers often can be an intimate partner or a close relative, so following up with the victim becomes crucial, interim police Chief Jason Thody said.
But with so many cases to handle, that doesn’t always happen.
“The process of moving paperwork and moving reports can sometimes leave victims that should’ve been identified, not identified,” Thody said during a news conference at Hartford police headquarters. “And so first and foremost, we want to make sure that we reach everyone.”
Second, police officials and advocates say they want to move quickly to assess victims who are at risk -- and offer them resources. That’s where Ada Alers comes in.
Alers, an advocate for Interval House who is now stationed full time at the Hartford Police Department, said her role is to intervene after the initial response. Police officers in Connecticut use a questionnaire while on the scene of domestic violence calls. That screening tool, part of the Lethality Assessment Program, asks questions such as: Does the abuser have a gun or can get one easily? Has he or she ever tried to choke you?
Alers said she reviews those questionnaires and reaches out to victims, including those in “low-risk” cases that could escalate.
“It allows me to service women struggling through domestic violence in real time,” Alers said. “When the police feel like they’re limited to make that connection and have that empathy that the victim needs in that moment of her crisis -- which is a very traumatic experience -- I am there to facilitate that support.”
Interval House also has a domestic violence advocate embedded with the East Hartford Police Department.
Connecticut Public Radio reporter Ryan Lindsay contributed to this report.