Police receive award for work against domestic violence
POTTSTOWN >> Domestic violence numbers in Pottstown have remained relatively steady over the last decade and preventing it is no easy task.
No one knows this better than the Pottstown Police Department and the Women’s Center of Montgomery County, who deal with these situations on a day-to-day basis.
Pottstown Police, however, have long been at the forefront of looking for solutions to these issues, working with community groups such as the Women’s Center to address its most difficult aspects.
That’s why on Nov. 16, The Women’s Center of Montgomery County presented Pottstown Police with an award for their ongoing effort to reduce domestic violence incidents, which police say have remained above 1,000 calls per year in Pottstown since 2000.
“The Women’s Center of Montgomery County has had an office in Pottstown for almost 20 years. And in that 20 years we have had a long working relationship with the Pottstown Police,” explained Pauline McGibbon, program coordinator for the Women’s Center of Montgomery County. “I think they were the first police department to use the permission slip program.”
The permission slip program is a step in which police, when responding to domestic violence incidents, give the victim a sheet of information about the Women’s Center and ask the victim to give permission for the center to contact them. They then give that slip to the center so they may follow up with help for the victim.
“A few years ago we started to implement another program which is called the lethality assessment. That’s when the police go to a domestic, if they feel the victim is at risk of further injury, if there already are severe injuries, particularly strangulation injuries, or if they feel the victim is at risk of being killed, they ask a series of questions to assess the threat,” McGibbon explained.
McGibbon said she believes the programs and partnership with the police department have worked tremendously and that they are continuing to focus on safety aspects that could help prevent these incidents in the future.
“Through the permission slip program we have been able to support Pottstown Police, support the Women’s Center. This work is really important. Last year I think we had 12 to 1300 domestic violence incidents in Pottstown. We have a significant amount of domestic issues or issues that deal with trauma in our community ... I know police have had multiple trainings on how to support victims of trauma, support victims of domestic violence in our community,” said Jena Ostrowski, director of community, family and justice services at Creative Health and police liaison.
According to Pottstown Police Chief Mick Markovich, their trainings can include anything from a half an hour read through or a training consisting of several hours. The trainings are mostly focused on informing officers about the resources available to victims of domestic violence.
“It’s just to make our officers more familiar with what the Women’s Center offers, what Creative Health offers and what the District Attorney’s Office offers. We do simple trainings. Sometimes it’s a half hour read off training before the officers get out on the streets and some trainings that are hours long, for a full day. We’ve always, since I was on patrol, taken domestic violence seriously,” said Markovich.
And the department’s efforts have not just been noted by the organizations they work with. Victims of domestic violence have lauded the department for their above and beyond efforts in making victims feel safe and offering options for those who need help.
One victim, who was present at the police station when police received the award, recalled her experience and how police helped her when she needed it. The Mercury is withholding the name of the victim to protect her identity.
“The arresting officer that came to my home on that night gave me pamphlets for the Women’s Center and told me to call them. It’s ongoing and Officer Licwinko, and Pauline and the ADA all keep in contact with me throughout this whole thing and it’s been going on for three years now. Still, they all have my back,” she said. “I’ve never lived anywhere where I truly felt the police are doing their job. The week after he got out of jail, there was a police officer on my corner every night when I came home. They all work very well together.”
Police and the Women’s Center of Montgomery County plan to continue using their partnership to address these issues at the ground level. Although no specific plans were disclosed, police said they are looking at addressing more youth about the issues of domestic violence to further reduce instances in the borough.
For assistance or more information on The Women’s Center of Montgomery County visit wcmontco.org.
From left, Pauline McGibbon, Pottstown Police Chief Mick Markovich and Jena Ostrowski. The Women’s Center of Montgomery County awarded Pottstown Police with a plaque for their continued efforts