Agencies bolster safety measures for continuous improvement in domestic violence response

Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 9:37 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2023 at 10:11 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - In the past year, six tragic domestic violence-related deaths in Amarillo have left nine children without parents. Simultaneously, the Amarillo Police Department (APD) has responded to over 5,000 domestic violence calls, underlining the urgent need for action.

In response to this grim situation, both Family Support Services (FSS) and APD are working diligently to enhance their approach to managing domestic violence cases. “We really have worked hard in Amarillo to try to decrease the stigma and increase our response to that to protect these victims,” says Sergeant Carla Burr, Public Relations Officer for Amarillo Police Department.

Key initiatives in this effort include the Amarillo Police Department collaborating with Family Support Services by introducing domestic violence victims to the support services they provide.

This collaboration seeks to ensure victims have access to the assistance they need from the earliest stages of an incident.

  • Weekly Meetings on High-Risk Cases and Repeat Offenders: APD has initiated weekly meetings dedicated to addressing high-risk cases and repeat offenders. This approach allows for a more proactive response to potentially dangerous situations.
  • Early Domestic Violence Training for Police Recruits: Recruits at the police academy now receive comprehensive domestic violence training, ensuring they are well-prepared to handle these sensitive cases from the outset.

“They’re introducing them early on that to have Family Support Services come in and talk to them about what services they offer,” says Burr.

  • Working with Stalking Victims: The Domestic Violence Squad sergeants are actively working with stalking victims to increase the likelihood of a successful legal case.
  • Immediate Danger Assessment forms: Additionally, danger assessment forms are being distributed to victims early in the process, with FSS emphasizing this as one of their most crucial tools.

“If there’s a certain amount of risk factors, then they get Family Support Services involved at the time of the incident,” explains Burr.

  • Ring Security Camera Program: In a recent development, a program has been launched to provide Ring security cameras to domestic violence survivors. These cameras significantly enhance survivor safety by allowing them to document potential threats.

“Especially as a survivor of domestic violence, that’s a layer of security but it’s also a layer of proof. That’s kind of a hard standpoint to think through but if someone is stalking them or if someone is driving by their house, that is then video proof that they can turn over to the authorities and say, ‘this person is still harassing me,’” explains Azelin Roberts, Volunteer Advocate Coordinator for Family Support Services.

“We’ve had several clients come back and say they were able to turn footage over to the police. So we definitely see that in real time being a big asset to them,” says Roberts.

APD says one of the biggest misconceptions and reasons domestic violence cases go unreported is because of the belief it is a family matter.

“Too many people say this is family business. Well, if you’re punching someone that you say you love in the face because you want power over them, that’s not family business. That’s a crime. That’s an assault and we need to be involved in it,” says Burr.

As Amarillo grapples with the challenges posed by domestic violence, these collaborative efforts between law enforcement and support services aim to provide better protection for victims and hold offenders accountable, ultimately making the community safer.

Family Support Services is obtaining recording equipment so APD can interview survivors in a more comforting location.

Right now they are requesting phones, which can be any type and don’t require service, for victims to call 911.

Family Support Services can provide assistance to domestic violence survivors. Click here for more information.