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Yakima formalizes city team to improve response to domestic violence

Yakima Herald-Republic - 6/10/2022

Jun. 8—A city team created to improve the response to domestic violence incidents in Yakima was made official by the Yakima City Council on Tuesday.

Over the last year, the Domestic Violence Coordinated Community Response Team has developed a more cohesive and complete response to domestic violence in Yakima, involving law enforcement, mental health and survivor advocates and other partners. Yakima police Lt. Chad Janis said the effort is more focused.

"There's been a bigger umbrella effort that has just always existed, whereas this is much more strategic and focused on intimate partner violence, a very evidence-based approach to it," Janis said.

The council's action Tuesday just formalized that effort, he said. All other partners had already signed the agreement, which sets goals for the group and holds all members to confidentiality and security standards to protect victims.

The group includes the Yakima police and legal departments; Yakima YWCA; Comprehensive Health; Yakima School District; Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families; Yakima County Prosecutor's Office; and Yakima County Probation.

The response team meets daily to discuss new cases, response plans and provide services and safety to domestic violence survivors or victims and their children. The team also hosts a monthly meeting for long-term updates.

A number of procedures have been added to the city's domestic violence response as a result, including:

* Starting the Handle with Care program to support school age youth

* Expediting intimate partner domestic violence warrants

* Creating a 24-hour YWCA access line for at-risk victims

* Implementing a three-day police follow up program

* Enhancing probation response

Janis said the group is also working to develop a strategy for intervention for intimate partner violence offenders, a piece that's missing from the current strategy.

"Ultimately, the end result could be jail, but if there's a better way to treat somebody with underlying issues that could potentially prevent a domestic violence incident from happening or happening in the future, or to address the recidivism issue that we're dealing with, that's really what we're going to spend the next couple of years trying to figure out," he said.

Some programs are currently available, but they require the offender to pay out of pocket, Janis said. The team is looking at ways to create a holistic program in Yakima and ways to fund it, he said.

"A rather big project, but it simply doesn't exist now," he said.

The team is focused on intimate partner violence in the city of Yakima specifically, Janis said.

"We're always open to anybody interested in the effort, and certainly would share our strategy with anybody that asked, whether they were criminal justice or otherwise," he said.

The Yakima Police Department's data dashboard has recorded 1,981 incidents of intimate partner violence in Yakima since last June. It shows that children have been present in 188 incidents so far in 2022, and weapons have been used in 64 incidents.

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