Federal grant aids Amherst in fighting domestic violence - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Federal grant aids Amherst in fighting domestic violence

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With the help of a federal grant, the Amherst Police Department is adding to the way they approach domestic violence cases.

The grant will allow for a detective to be reassigned, to strictly handle sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

The department told CBS 3 that they investigated 157 domestic violence incidents and 36 sex offenses in 2012, with each situation presenting different circumstances.

"There are witnesses, there could be children that need to be interviewed," said Capt. Jennifer Gundersen. "There could be other family members that need to be interviewed. There could be neighbors that require interviewed, suspects."

To help with that legwork, Amherst police received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice worth $300,000. The money will not only fund the detective position, but help UMass police, Northampton police, and a victim's rights group on the UMass campus.

"For the other agencies and police departments, we have funded a civilian domestic violence advocate that works within those police departments," said Gundersen.  "[The advocate] can be at the front line to assist survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence with immediate advocacy."

For a department like UMass, they told CBS 3 that the domestic violence advocate is very important. They help to create a bridge between the victim and the police.

"The officers think to call her from the scene and get her rolling," said Deputy Chief Patrick Archbald. "She can be here at the station to support the victim or quickly following up with the victim by phone."

UMass police said that while the advocate position is not a permanent one at the moment, they can see a time in the future where that will change.

"I could see where we will be having a conversation at some point that we will want to get some funding ourselves, so this is a long-term commitment," said Archbald.

Amherst police said the detective assigned to the domestic violence cases will allow for the department to handle the follow-up better. They said that should allow for more successful convictions.

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