Po­lice re­ceive award for work against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Mar­ian Den­nis mden­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

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.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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

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