SPOKANE, Wash. -- Spokane Police are trying to help stop domestic violence.
About a year ago, they started a new offender notification program. For the last 10 months, Spokane Police have been focused on identifying and stopping would-be abusers.
“The goal of our unit is not to put people in jail, not to separate families, it's to get this type of behavior to stop," Spokane Police Sgt. Jordan Ferguson said.
Ferguson said domestic violence victims are evaluated under the lethality assessment program. It helps officers identify victims who are at the greatest risk of being hurt or killed. In March 2017, officers took it a step further and put offenders on notice.
"What we do is the officers in the domestic violence unit will actually talk to offenders while they're in custody before they have their first appearance and explain to them the ramifications of domestic violence," he said.
Officers pay a visit to each offender's jail cell to tell them they are watching. They also give them a letter to show they will not tolerate future acts of domestic violence. Making the offender no longer just a number in the system but someone who is tracked by the domestic violence unit.
“We will keep coming after them and we will charge them with every violation we can come up with in regards to domestic violence," Ferguson said.
The offender notification program is not new. It first started in North Carolina. In the first three years there, re-offense rates dropped from roughly 40 percent down to 14 percent. Spokane police believe it is working here as well.
"We feel it's making a difference. we hear other inmates talking about it. All the inmates in the jail know who the domestic violence officers are when they walk into the jail," he said.
Each year, the number of intimate partner homicides has gone down. Those are different than domestic violence homicides involving family members. In 2014, there were four intimate partner homicides in the city of Spokane. In 2015, there was one. In 2016 and 2017, there were zero. So far in 2018, there has been one.
"It's a big deal for a city our size not to have an intimate partner homicide during that time frame,” Ferguson explained.
Police plan to crunch the numbers in the near future to find out what kind of difference the offender notification program is making. If you are stuck in a domestic violence situation and need help you have options. The YWCA has a 24 hour helpline its 509-326-2255.