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New law enforcement protocol creates spike in calls to CVIC

Calls are way up this year to the Community Violence Intervention Center's crisis hotline, but the reason isn't a jump in domestic violence incidents in Grand Forks.

Community Violence Intervention Center

Calls are way up this year to the Community Violence Intervention Center's crisis hotline, but the reason isn't a jump in domestic violence incidents in Grand Forks.

The calls are coming from law enforcement officers at the scene of domestic violence incidents as part of a new protocol called a lethality assessment program, which has officers calling the crisis line with the victim present at the scene of a report.

"If (officers) respond to any kind of domestic violence-related call with intimate partners, they go through a protocol, which screens in or out whether it's a high-danger case," Crisis Intervention Coordinator Maren Richards said. "We're seeing a lot more law enforcement-related calls, which are then becoming crisis line calls."

In the first quarter of 2015, more than 275 calls came into the crisis line - up 75 percent from the same time period the year prior. From January to March of 2014, the crisis line received 160 calls.

Remove the LAP calls and the crisis line call numbers remain steady, Richards said.



The protocol has police taking a more active role in trying to link victims up with CVIC resources.

"Previously ... we would strongly encourage the victim to contact a CVIC advocate for assistance, insight, services," Grand Forks Police Lt. Derick Zimmel. "The problem is, when we leave, life returns and a lot of times that call wasn't being made."

Several local law enforcement agencies have received training on the protocol, which consists of a series of 11 questions meant to uncover any sort of violent history between the partners and gauge the danger level of the situation.

"It's about identifying high danger (situations) and then also the connection," said Jennifer Albert, coordinated community response coordinator. "It provides us with a common language with law enforcement and advocates."

Officers will ask the victim this set of questions at the scene. After the questioning is complete, the officer will call CVIC, relay the information to an advocate and pass the phone to the victim.

"It heightens the chance, the opportunity for them to actually receive some services," Zimmel said. "They don't have to be the one to take that step, someone takes the step for them."

While encouraged to speak to an advocate at that time, victims do have the right to refuse to talk to CVIC staff, Zimmel said.


It also provides CVIC staff with more context if the victim chooses to seek out their services following the incident.

Increased workload

The influx of calls does create more hours for CVIC staff outside of normal work hours and more times officers spend on calls.

Night and weekend calls to the center's crisis line almost doubled from the first quarter of 2014 to 2015, increasing from 96 to 183 calls.

Alberts said the center expects to see an ebb and flow month to month, but the overall trend of increasing call numbers will likely continue.

Staff members said the program also could be behind other growing demands for the center's services.

The number of adult victims seen by the center's Light of Hope Program, which provides emergency and transitional housing for abuse victims, increased from 261 in the first quarter of last year to 341 in the same three-month period this year.

"It certainly has increased our workload, but we're really happy that we're seeing more people getting connected to us and getting the information about what we can do to help," Richards said.

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