Janesville PD implements screening process to help victims of domestic violence

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JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV)-- The Janesville Police Department's Domestic Violence Intervention Team implemented a new initiative to help victims connect to resources faster.

The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which the department implemented last spring, allows trained officers to connect victims with help on the scene. The officers who respond to the calls screen intimate partner victims by asking questions that relate to behavior and safety.

Sgt. Brian Vaughn, the D.I.V. team's lead supervisor, said domestic violence is an issue that needs attention.

"It's homicide prevention, and we really think by getting in touch with victims and getting them in contact with advocates that could help them at some point prevent a homicide," said Vaughn.

According to Janesville police, In 2018, the department responded to approximately 900 domestic-related calls. According to the most current Wisconsin domestic violence homicide report, domestic violence claimed 62 lives in the state in 2017.

Vaughn said, depending on how the victim answers the questions, an officer can let the person know they are at risk of being killed and can connect with them with resources to help immediately.

If help is needed, the officers then connect the victim to an advocate at the YWCA of Rock County.

Jessi Luepnitz, YWCA's Alternatives to Violence Program Director, said they have helped more than 140 people since the screening began.

"We are hoping that this will prevent any future homicides, that is the whole point of the Lethality Assessment Program," she said

She said more than 20 percent of their clientele are referred to them through Janesville PD. With the screening, 78 percent of those people came in for help.

"Being connected to an advocate through a police officer right at the scene increases the chances a victim will follow through with the service," said Luepnitz.

Vaughn said the program can be an eye-opener for the victims of domestic violence.

"We look at them in the eyes and say, based on your answer to these questions, you are at risk of being killed. So when you have an officer look at you and tell you this, its puts it home more," said Vaughn.

The YWCA of Rock County also offers a 24/7 help line that can be reached at 608-752-2583.