New project aims to curb domestic violence in St. Paul

Blueprint project will act as a guide for criminal justice system

Andrew Penkalski

St. Paul city officials announced the launch of the Blueprint for Safety project Thursday, a new program aimed at providing greater service to the victims of domestic violence. St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington introduced the project along with members from participating agencies including the Ramsey County and St. Paul attorneysâÄô offices as well as the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center. The project, which was born from a legislative approval of $500,000 in funding in 2007 , aims to create an integrated response system for domestic violence cases within the city of St. Paul . âÄúDomestic violence really needs to be put in its place as a relic,âÄù Harrington said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. The initiative hopes to increase the availability of resources to victims through the entire process of each individual case as well as emphasizing accountability of the offenders. âÄúIt is a tailor-made fit from all of the different agencies that work to serve victims,âÄù Harrington said. Such increased services are being implemented at the cityâÄôs Emergency Communications Center in an effort to allow for a more effective response to 911 calls for domestic violence. Response time is an important point of reform, according to Emergency Communications Center Director Scott Williams . A 2008 national study reported that 42 to 66 percent of suspects in domestic assault are gone prior to police arrival . âÄúWeâÄôre the first to engage victims in the process,âÄù Williams said. âÄúThat 911 call in some cases represents the last chance to get good information for whatâÄôs going on.âÄù Ramsey CountyâÄôs emergency call centers received roughly 15,000 calls reporting domestic violence in 2009 alone, Williams said. âÄúAs weâÄôve seen in the past, victims often drop between the cracks,âÄù Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said. âÄúThis is an effort to eliminate those cracks.âÄù Criminal justice services, such as filing orders of protection for victims, will also be further prioritized through this integrated system, Fletcher said. Other groups, such as St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project and Praxis International, assisted in communicating with past victims as a means of constructing the program in accordance with the communityâÄôs needs. âÄúEach one brought the rich and diverse perspectives of their lifestyles, sexual orientation and spiritual beliefs into this process,âÄù said Shelley Johnson Cline, the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project Director.