A two-year federal grant worth nearly $300,000 will enable the Vancouver Police Department and YWCA Clark County to dedicate more time to investigating domestic-violence crimes and assisting victims, interim Chief Chris Sutter said Monday.
The Vancouver City Council voted Monday to accept the grant, which did not require matching local money.
The money comes from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. It will be split among three groups: VPD will receive $154,087 for officer training and overtime for detectives assigned to domestic- violence cases; the YWCA will receive $120,224 for two bilingual victim advocates; and the state Department of Corrections will receive $25,310 to investigate domestic-violence cases involving offenders who are on community supervision.
In a March 2012 grant application, Vancouver Police Sgt. Andy Hamlin, who works out of the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center, wrote that the past two years had been terrible. He listed several recent domestic-violence cases:
• In September 2010, David M. Miller poured gasoline on his girlfriend and their 5-year-old son before setting the home on fire. His girlfriend and son escaped. Miller was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
• In April 2011, Tuan Dao murdered five of his children and killed himself after dousing their home with gasoline. His wife had left home a week earlier with their eldest child after Dao hit her with a clothes iron.
• In May 2011, Kori Fredricksen bought a bus ticket home to South Dakota but could not afford a $40 fee for an overweight bag. A few hours later, her boyfriend, Dennis Wolter, was pulled over for speeding. He was covered in blood, and Fredricksen’s body was found on the side of a road. Wolter’s trial is set for March 11.
• In November 2011, Michael Boswell gave his girlfriend a cup of peppermint tea laced with a potentially lethal dose of acetaminophen and muscle relaxers, then shot her in the head. She made it to a hospital, where a routine blood test showed her liver was failing. She survived, and Boswell was sentenced last week to 35 years in prison.
• In December 2011, Steven Stanbary shot and killed his wife, Leona, and her twin sister, Mona, then set his Washougal house on fire and shot at responding officers before committing suicide.
The Domestic Violence Prosecution Center was formed in 2005 by the city and the county “after two deadly years and several shocking domestic-violence murders,” Hamlin wrote in the grant application.
The office reviews 3,200 to 3,500 cases a year, Hamlin said.
In 2011, the office filed 1,785 misdemeanor cases and 338 felony cases, a 25 percent increase from 2009.
“While we have made some significant system-level improvements to address high-risk cases, there are still thousands in our community living in crisis,” Hamlin wrote. “Emergency calls, police reports, arrests, and misdemeanor and felony filings show that domestic violence is still a very real problem.”
Enhanced tracking has made a difference, Hamlin wrote. Intimate partner homicides have decreased since 2006, “which we believe is due primarily to early intervention, threat assessment to identify high-risk cases and conduct follow-up, and zero tolerance for violation of protection orders.”
The grant money will address some shortcomings, including overtime pay for domestic-violence detectives who get called out by patrol officers to investigate serious cases.
That’s critical, to have specialized officers at the scene to help with the prosecution of the case, said Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen.
Police overtime pay gets coded, so only money from the grant will be used, Hamlin said.
Detectives will also be able to do more checks on victims and make sure suspects on release pending trial aren’t violating no-contact orders, Hamlin said.
YWCA Clark County Executive Director Sherri Bennett told the council Monday it’s crucial to have victim advocates who speak Russian and Spanish.
In Hamlin’s grant application, he wrote that “we often respond to people whose primary language is Spanish or Russian, and we contract for telephone-language line interpreters when needed. In-person translation services are preferred for 911 police response and other sensitive matters, but the 24-7 nature of public safety emergencies and tight local budgets force us to rely on translated printed materials for victim safety planning, protection order information, and brochures on programs, services and resources available for domestic violence victims and their families.”
City Councilor Jeanne Harris said Monday that she didn’t think she understoodthe impact of domestic violence until she read details in the grant application.
“People get killed, and women are killed in that situation,” Harris said. “It can be much more violent than I was even thinking about. …It seems to be such a huge issue that no one knows about, and we need to talk about it and we need to do something about it.”
Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.