BRIGHTON, Colo. — The 17th Judicial District is expanding a High Risk Domestic Violence team designed to coordinate responses and resources for survivors in the most dangerous cases, the DA's office said.
"Our number one goal is to keep victims alive and to give them the services they need," District Attorney Brian Mason, whose region includes Adams and Broomfield counties, said.
The program begins with patrol officers on the ground who then determines the level of danger a survivor might be facing by asking about the history of violence in the relationship, drug and alcohol use and the specifics of the latest incident.
If the situation reaches a certain threshold, the case is referred to the new team. The group meets weekly to discuss cases and the best resources available to survivors.
"We’re looking to see what services a survivor may need in order to exit the situation," Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Fritts said. She oversees the special victims unit, which she said saw an increase in serious domestic violence cases during the pandemic.
"Folks are were waiting longer to call police and so maybe a simple assault, a punch or a shove, they may not call for help because where are they going to go?" she said.
The new high risk team answers that question by determining which resources might help survivors the most. "We were all out there working to support domestic violence victims, but we weren't talking to each other," Fritts said.
Now Fritts and other prosecutors talk through cases with anti-domestic violence groups like Servicios de la Raza and Family Tree. "What is the danger, what is the situation that this individual, this survivor, this family are facing and most importantly, what services are available," Tina Hagerman of Family Tree explained.
Hagerman said other jurisdictions in the metro area already have high risk teams. Jefferson County built a family justice center where survivors can meet advocates in person -- and advocates can coordinate services for survivors.
"We don't only know the person's name who we're working with across the table," Hagerman explained. "We know who they are and what services they're able to provide."
The task force does not require a survivor to participate in any prosecutorial efforts, Mason said. "We don't say the only way you get these services is if you testify in court," he said. But Fritts indicated that relationships developed through the program can help with prosecutions down the line.
"We have better outcomes to hold offenders accountable when we’re partnering and taking a victim-centered approach," she said.
Right now, the team only examines cases from Brighton and Thornton, Fritts said. She said it plans to expand to help survivors in Commerce City later this fall. Mason said he aims to one day build a family justice center to centralize services in one place. "This team is the building block for a family justice center," he said.
Other domestic violence resources across the state can be found here.
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