Canton is taking a new approach to battling domestic violence

Posted at 8:06 AM, Apr 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-16 09:12:06-04

A new solution is coming soon in Canton to address domestic abuse while providing help for victims and abusers.

For more than two years, the 5 On Your Side Investigators have told you about how loopholes in Ohio law allow domestic violence abusers to buy guns. The state also has no central registry for protection orders, allowing abusers to walk free when they should have been arrested.

Canton's solution starts with a simple pamphlet handed out by officers at addresses where Canton police have been called to for domestic disturbances. 

"We want to let them know that, 'Listen, you're going to get our attention," said Canton Police Lieutenant Dennis Garren.

"Our violent crime as a whole in the city is down, but we noticed that domestic violence is not," said Lt. Garren. "We decided that we needed to have someone specifically follow up on all domestic violence cases."

That group comes in the form of 14 police officers who will visit addresses where they've been called for domestic violence calls in the past, dropping of pamphlets with information for both victims and their abusers.

"This is kind of a two-prong approach which we have not done before," said Cheli Curran, Executive Director of Domestic Violence Project, Inc.

"They're scared, and that's where they contact us and say maybe they'd like an advocate to be present or somebody that they feel more comfortable with," said Curran.

Now, the organization is partnering with police to reach out to the abuser, too. Only a few other places in the nation are taking this kind of approach where everyone involved gets information about how to get help, keep everyone safe and out of trouble.

"The police department is there to handle the abuser side of the situation and then refers to us for the victim side," said Curran.

She says at first, she was concerned a step like this might make an abuser take it out on the victim. She says the 14 person team and the training Canton Police are going through makes her feel like they have it under control.

"It says on there that this is initiated by the police," said Lt. Garren. "The victim has no say in this, this is not on them, they haven't asked us to come back out."

Canton Police say they think domestic violence statistics might go up right after the implement the program, only because victims might become more comfortable reaching out. Long term, they hope to show everyone, abusers, victims and children, that domestic violence isn't acceptable.

Officers are still going through a few more weeks of training before the police department will launch the program. There's no additional cost to the police department except the cost of printing the pamphlets.