This report presents the methodology, findings, and recommendations of a process evaluation of the Arrest Policies Program of Austin, TX, a Federal grant program intended to encourage jurisdictions to implement mandatory or pro-arrest policies as an effective domestic-violence intervention that is part of a coordinated community response to domestic violence.
Members of the Austin/Travis County Family Violence Task Force developed the goals and objectives for the initial Arrest Policies grant, which started March 1, 1997, and was scheduled to end August 31, 1998. Project goals were to enhance pro-arrest policies for domestic-violence offenders and protective-order violators by training police officers, judges, and prosecutors in how to improve the handling of domestic violence cases; create a Family Violence Protection Team (FVPT) to increase services to victims, develop prosecution strategies, provide legal advocacy, promote thorough investigations, and assist with safety planning and protective orders; create a cross-agency management information system to allow for better communication and tracking of domestic-violence cases; and enhance long-term counseling options for domestic-violence offenders and victims. Other goals were developed for the continuation grant, which started July 1, 1999, and will end December 31, 2000. The FVPT is composed of representatives of the police department and county sheriff's office, the county attorney's office, Legal Aid of Central Texas, Women's Advocacy Project, and SafePlace. All agency team members are housed at one location in the city. The three components of the team are investigative services, legal services, and social services. The evaluation found that the FVPT was slow in getting started. The first project coordinator was not hired until late July, even though the grant started in March. Implementation problems were as follows: The roles of agencies and staff were unclear and undefined; there were no guidelines for accessing and sharing information among agencies; there were legal barriers associated with obtaining protective orders; outside agencies did not feel comfortable in referring victims to what was perceived as a "police agency;" the development of an FVPT computer system was delayed; and there was a lack of communication and collaboration among the team's staff. Still, the team has overcome the setbacks experienced during implementation and has become more effective. Specific recommendations are offered for drawing probation into team efforts and for enhancing the protective-order process.
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