- The emergency communication center was buzzing Thursday with community agencies and law enforcement learning about ways to help prevent domestic violence.
Participating in the training day were Area of Aging, Victims Intervention Program, the VIP witness coordinator, state police from Honesdale and Blooming Grove Barracks, the National Park Service; and Waymart, Hawley, Honesdale Lehigh Township and Shohola police departments. It was sponsored by the Wayne County District Attorney's office.
Jamie Schultz, the violence against women's detective for the District Attorney's office, said the training was to "help educate" law enforcement and community agencies on "better ways" to help prevent domestic violence.
"This is part of the domestic violence stop grant, which allows us to provide education and training in areas of domestic violence and sexual assault," Schultz said. "I hope that through this, people will become more aware. We want to deal with these issues sooner rather than later before they become more violent."
He said that those who attended the training learned about evidence collection, behavioral aspects, indicators and evidence to look for, and more.
Michele Minor-Wolf, Executive Director of the Victims Intervention Program, said it's an "impressive" partnership between law enforcement and counseling agencies.
"We hope to prevent domestic violence," she said. "Law enforcement is learning about preserving evidence and victim advocates are seeing how they can help. We are working as a team and as a community to help prevent domestic violence."
She said that within the last few years, and especially the last year and a half, there has been an increase in homicides due to domestic violence.
"We want to get to the issue before it becomes a homicide," Wolf explained. "We have to catch it as early as we can. We want to hold the batterers accountable and to get better convictions."
She said there is a Wayne County Anti-violence Task Force, who are "key players" in enhancing services as well as policies and procedures.
"We have to make sure there's some kind of safety plan in place for the victim involved," Wolf stated. "This partnership between victim advocates and law enforcement will be beneficial to all involved, and it will also be beneficial to the community."
Wolf also said that Wayne County doesn't have Batterers Intervention Services (BIS).
"Anger management isn't the answer," she said. "Domestic violence is about power and control."
She added while Wayne County doesn't have a BIS, they are "looking into" having one.
The VIP hotline is 1-800-698-4VIP and the local number is 253-4401 for anyone looking for help.
"We are lucky to have Trooper Zirpoli with his knowledge in investigating and education and training," said District Attorney Janine Edwards. "We are dedicating ourselves to do more to not just prevent domestic violence, but to make sure those who commit these crimes are prosecuted to the highest extent of the law."
Page 2 of 2 - Edwards said Thursday's training had a "good representation" from all over. She added that money used from the domestic violence stop grant is used for training related to domestic violence and crimes against women throughout Wayne County, which can also be helpful for "successful prosecution."
"The problem doesn't go away," said Edwards. "These issues are important to the community and my office supports prevention. Wayne County has seen a very large increase in domestic violence incidents occurring in the community. With joining together investigators, counselors and prosecutors, we hope we can help reduce the occurrences of domestic violence. If we can't reduce them, at least we can educate investigators, counselors and prosecutors on what to look for so other incidents don't escalate to what we have seen, which is homicides."
Speakers for the training were Edwards, case prep and prosecution; Schultz, domestic violence investigations; Trooper First Class (TFC) Patrick Zirpoli, domestic violence homicides; and TFC Gerry Gustas, crime scene evidence collection.
Edwards said Thursday's training falls just days before Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is in April.
On Thursday, April 4 at 5 p.m. there will be a Take Back the Night at The Cooperage, 1030 Main Street, Honesdale. Take Back the Night program is about "healing, remembrance and empowerment" in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The theme is "start a ripple...create a wave."
The guest speaker will be Norman Friedman. Refreshments will be available and entertainment includes Patrick J. Fiore and students.
We'll have more details about this event in our weekend edition.