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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Janine Kava | janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov | (518) 457-8906
Press Office | Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence announces $400,000 in grants to reduce intimate partner homicides

Domestic violence prevention programs in Newburgh and Troy receive grants to partner with law enforcement to implement Risk Reduction Enhanced Response pilot programs

The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence today announced that two community-based organizations serving domestic violence victims will each receive a $200,000 state grant so they can partner with law enforcement in an effort to reduce intimate partner homicides in their communities. The two-year grants were awarded to Safe Homes of Orange County and Unity House of Troy.

“These programs are among the most promising practices being used today to reduce domestic violence fatalities,” said Gwen Wright, executive director of the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. “Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has taken many significant steps to improve the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence and enhance protections for survivors. The availability of this funding exemplifies his continued commitment to combating this crime and I look forward to working with Safe Homes and Unity House and their partners on this important initiative.”

The state will invest a total of $400,000 over two years in the initiative, known as the Risk Reduction Enhanced Response pilot program. Both grants require a 20 percent match from the service providers.

Under the program, Safe Homes and Unity House, in partnership with law enforcement in their respective communities, will use an evidence-based assessment tool to identify intimate partner abuse cases deemed to be at high risk for lethal violence at the earliest point possible. Service providers and law enforcement will work together to improve the community’s response to those high-risk cases, with the goal of increasing victim safety, ensuring services for victims are comprehensive and accessible, and enhancing monitoring and enforcement to better hold offenders accountable for their behavior.

Safe Homes and Unity House both operate state-licensed domestic violence programs. Both organizations will use their grant funding to collaborate with law enforcement.

Safe Homes, which is based in Newburgh, will work with city officials and its police department, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Orange County Probation, and other community-based organizations to create the Risk Reduction Response Program. This multi-disciplinary coalition will use an evidence-based risk assessment tool to help intervene in high-risk domestic violence cases. The program is aimed at improving responses to high-risk domestic violence cases with the overall goal of enhanced victim safety and increased offender accountability.

Unity House is partnering with Troy Police, Rensselaer County Probation, and the county District Attorney’s Office to create a multi-disciplinary team to identify and address cases where the victim is at high risk of being killed. The team will conduct victim assessments and identify high-risk cases in need of intervention.  These cases will then be targeted for intensified domestic violence prevention services and strategic criminal justice involvement – such as heightened surveillance and 24-hour monitoring of those offenders ordered to wear a pre-trial GPS device.

Safe Homes and Unity House were selected for the grant in part because of an increase in domestic violence fatalities and assaults. In Orange County, there have been at least two domestic violence-related homicides annually since 2010; reports of domestic assaults have also increased annually since 2014. In Troy, there has been an increase in both domestic homicides and domestic incident reports over the past two years. OPDV funded its first Risk Reduction Enhanced Response pilot in Schenectady County in 2013. Other communities across the state also are engaged in programs, using this model and others, to reduce intimate partner violence.

While the total number of homicides reported in New York State declined annually from 2010 through 2015 – reaching an all-time low last year, with 612 reported – the number of intimate partner homicides has fluctuated. During the same timeframe, the yearly total ranged from a high of 89 in 2011 to a low of 64 reported last year, according to Domestic Homicide in New York State 2015, published by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

One fact has remained constant: when women are victims of a homicide, their intimate partner was usually the perpetrator. Nearly half of all female homicide victims age 16 or older – 49 of 99 – were killed by their intimate partners, as compared to 3.1 percent of all male homicide victims, according to the report.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services has published an annual Domestic Homicide in New York State report since 2007. It presents a statistical and demographic breakdown of all domestic homicides, defined as those where the victim and offender had a domestic relationship, such as husband and wife and parent and child, for example. The report provides specific details on intimate partner homicides, commonly known as domestic violence homicides. These incidents are defined as involving a spouse, ex-spouse, heterosexual or same-sex partner or ex-partner.

Among other responsibilities, the Division of Criminal Justice Services collects, compiles and publishes crime data to help inform the development of effective criminal justice policies and programs at the state and local level.

DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “At DCJS, we are committed to supporting evidence-based programs and initiatives and providing policymakers at all levels of government with information and data that will help them to make informed decisions. While the number of intimate partner homicides reached a nine-year low last year, these crimes continue to have a devastating effect on communities. I commend the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence for funding this evidence-based work that will save lives.”

Safe Homes is the only private, not-for-profit agency in Orange County dedicated to assisting survivors of domestic violence, teen-dating violence and human trafficking by providing free and confidential services.

Safe Homes Executive Director Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier said, “Orange County knows all too well the devastating impact domestic violence homicides have on a community, and know they are preventable. Collectively, we will work on implementing a program that identifies high-risk cases, and ensures immediate connection to services, and accountability within the criminal justice system.”

Unity House is a Rensselaer County-based human service agency that provides a wide range of services to meet the needs of people in the community who are hurting and struggling.

Unity House Chief Executive Officer Christopher Burke said, "Risk reduction is crucial to improving services, and Unity House is uniquely positioned to advance this work. With more than 40 years of service to victims of domestic violence, and partnerships across community service providers, we look ahead to reducing risk and saving more lives."

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (www.opdv.ny.gov ) is charged with improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence. OPDV provides guidance to Executive staff on policy and legislation; conducts statewide community outreach and public education programs; and trains professionals on addressing domestic violence in a wide array of disciplines, including child welfare, law enforcement and health care.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the states DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.