With child abuse and family violence on the rise in Abilene, police have pooled their resources to create a Special Victims Unit and hire a civilian victim impact coordinator.
According to Police Chief Stan Standridge, officers deal with an estimated 160 family violence offenses each month. In 2012, the Child Advocacy Center served 474 children. Since creating the SVU in November, more victims have been willing to prosecute.
Criminal Investigation Division Lt. Gary Bone said family violence passes through all socioeconomic, racial, age and gender barriers and it is a complex crime that is not easy for the general public, and even jurors, to understand.
“People would be surprised to know what goes on behind closed doors,” Bone said. “A lot of victims want help – but they feel protective of their abuser – which is part of the dynamics of family violence.”
Since the SVU and victim impact coordinator have expedited the investigation process, Bone said more victims are pressing charges before the suspects have the opportunity to perpetrate violence against them again.
“Every Friday night, two detectives flex their schedules and they go out and work the streets and they go out and respond to all family violence calls—or as many as they can—immediately,” Standridge said.
To end the cycle of violence, Bone said police are also reaching out to the suspects.
“Ultimately, they're still going to offend if that cycle is not broken with them,” Bone said. “A victim may get out and be free from them, but there will be another victim that steps into that cycle if that suspect continues to offend with someone else.”
The victim impact coordinator reviews calls for service, helps victims seek protective orders, connects families with specialized agencies and educates the public about family violence. Since the coordinator is a civilian, Bone said many victims feel she is more approachable than an officer and she can give police a different perspective.