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The City Journals

New Program Implemented to Keep West Valley Families Safer

Apr 08, 2016 11:11AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

West Valley - The West Valley City Council unanimously voted in the partnering of South Valley Services and The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition with the Lethality Assessment Program. 

The Lethality Assessment Program, or LAP, helps law enforcement coordinate with victim service providers to improve and reduce domestic violence homicides in Utah. LAP helps police officers to ensure victims of domestic violence get the help and support they need. It provides 11 evidence-based questions that law enforcement and victim advocates are trained to use to help connect those at greatest risk with essential victim services. 

The program is modeled after a similar program in Maryland. The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (UDVC) received funding from the Utah government and proceeded to train the West Jordan Police Department, which then helped train the West Valley City Police Department. 

“We’re really excited for the partnership because they’re [West Valley City] the largest law enforcement agency. We feel like we’ll be able to reach out to at-risk families with the partnership,” Jennifer Oxborrow, the executive director of UDVC, said.

Law enforcement now has a better way to help those who are victims of domestic violence get the help they need so police aren’t going back and forth from the same house. 

The 11 questions help police officers identify what kind of help the victim needs.

“It helps them recognize the lethal violence risk,” Oxborrow said. “It makes them know where the lethal violence is in a family and helps them work with the family in a different way and reach out to the family and see the different options.” 

“It’s simple protocol,” Lethality Assessment Program Coordinator Maggie Bale said. “And it’s easier than what they were doing already, and it makes it simple. It connects with services, and law enforcement feels like it’s doing something and not leaving and hoping it doesn’t happen again.” 

Studies show that in 2015 domestic violence-related death accounted for 47 percent of all homicides in Utah and at least three domestic violence related suicide per month. Sixty-three percent of homeless women and 40 percent of homeless families in Utah are victims of domestic violence, and through LAP, those percentages can be reduced. The program has helped victims engage in counseling, calling domestic violence hotlines, finding legal help for protective services along with many more improvements. 

“Our partnership with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition and Utah South Valley Services through the LAP program has given officers new tools through which they are better able to assess the threat of continued victimization in situations of domestic and intimate partner violence,” Police Chief Lee Russo said in regard to the West Valley police and the program. “And, armed with this new tool and support network, we have a real opportunity to support the needs of victims and break an often continuing cycle of violence.”

“West Valley wasn’t a part of the initial funding, but they are our biggest partner going forward,” Oxoborrow said.

The program started in West Valley in early January, and in the short time the program has been implemented, police have been able to quickly identify a lot more victims and connect them with the help they need.

“There’s a lot of negative media around law enforcement,” Bale said. “This program is positive and it works toward prevention. It’s exciting, and it gets police excited.” 

The services provided to families will be done by the South Valley Services that provides safe shelter and supportive services to families that have been impacted by domestic violence. 

If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who may be, you can contact the West Valley Police Department at 801-840-4000 or South Valley Services at 801-255-8361.