A project that pairs police in Las Vegas with domestic violence support is expanding.
Project Safe 417 started in 2017 in the Northwest Area Command (NWAC). It’s been so successful, it’s being launched at all 10 police command centers in Southern Nevada.
Lt. Tim Hatchett with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department came up with the idea after being asked by his captain to come up with ways to address the problem.
He did a top-down analysis of the domestic violence and talked to officers about what was missing from their response to domestic violence cases. Officers told him they needed more support in the field.
“One of the items we needed to improve on was exploiting the resources available to the victim,” Lt. Hatchett said.
For years, Metro has been giving out blue cards with the phone number for SafeNest on it but that was about all. When Liz Ortenburger, CEO of SafeNest, went on a ride-along with Metro and asked people what they knew about the programs offered and very few knew what was available.
“It became very, very apparent that those resources are not getting to the victims and those ideas and concepts available to them, whether it’s breaking their leases, whether it’s getting an emergency protective order, whether it’s establishing a safety plan, whether it's reconnecting with them in counseling services – all these things are available with SafeNest,” Hatchett said.
While it seemed like an easy concept, officers call in help from SafeNest staff and volunteers when a domestic violence victim needs it. It took some effort from Ortenburger to sell her staff on the idea.
She has only been CEO of the organization for a few months when Lt. Hatchett came to her. Her staff pushed back on the idea. They never felt that Metro had been a partner with them.
However, they set up ride-alongs with staff and officers, which helped each side see how they were working for the same goal. Ortenburger said the organization had to make a cultural shift in how it saw its role in the community.
“We had seen ourselves primarily as a victim services agency but we have evolved into a public safety agency that is ending the epidemic of domestic violence,” she said.
The statistics have shown the program is working. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reports domestic violence-related homicides at NWAC dropped from six in 2017 to one in 2018.
And beyond just saving lives, it is saving officers from repeated calls to the same homes.
“When we started looking at those numbers not only did our homicides fall to zero that year, but we also had 92 percent of the time there were no repeat calls for service at that household when SafeNest was utilized,” Lt. Hatchett said.
Ortenburger says there is one statistic that is driving all of the change.
“Of the women that are domestic violence homicide victims only 4 percent had access to a nonprofit DV agency the year before they were murdered,” she said.
She said that is the reason everyone involved must do better at connecting victims to help right away.
If you're experiencing domestic violence, contact:
SafeNest at 702-646-4981
Shade Tree 702-385-0072
Liz Ortenburger, CEO, SafeNest; Lt. Tim Hatchett, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
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