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Chicago Heights, Illinois, Domestic Violence Unit: A Process Evaluation

NCJ Number
201881
Author(s)
Cheron DuPree
Date Published
February 2000
Annotation
This report presents the findings and recommendations of a process evaluation of the Arrest Program in Chicago Heights, IL., which was funded by a Federal grant intended to encourage jurisdictions to implement mandatory or proarrest policies as an effective domestic-violence intervention that is part of a coordinated community response to domestic violence.
Abstract
A section on the project environment encompasses a brief history of Chicago Heights and an overview of State law relevant to domestic violence, notably laws pertinent to protection orders and stalking. This is followed by an overview of law enforcement agencies that serve Chicago Heights, as well as the courts, with attention to the policies and practices regarding domestic-violence cases. The overall goal of the Arrest Program is to develop a coordinated approach to domestic violence by creating a centralized domestic violence unit that involves police, legal advocates, and a battered women's shelter. Specific objectives are to create a Domestic Violence Unit in the police department; to provide legal-advocacy services to victims; and to develop policies and procedures, supported by training and protocols, that improve the tracking of domestic-violence cases. The partnership between the South Suburban Family Shelter (SSFS) and the Chicago Heights Police Department evolved from a previous relationship the project director had established with the shelter. Since SSFS victim advocates are on-site with the Domestic Violence Unit, communication between these organizations is constant. The Domestic Violence Unit encountered several problems in handling cases and helping victims. Initially, reports by patrol officers were poorly written and not sufficiently detailed; officers were not enforcing protection orders; victims did not trust the detectives and would not cooperate; the court victim advocate was overwhelmed with cases; and the four detectives in the Domestic Violence Unit had large caseloads. Site interviews that were part of the process evaluation found that probation officers were not consistently monitoring domestic-violence offenders who had been given court-ordered counseling or probation. In spite of these problems, the project's efforts have laid a structural foundation for an improved response to domestic violence that involves interagency cooperation, a specialized response to domestic violence, and enhanced services for victims. Recommendations include the assignment of specially trained probation officers to monitor domestic-violence probationers. An alternative to creating a specialized probation unit for domestic-violence offenders would be to have designated counseling agencies for batterers. An improvement in the prosecution of domestic-violence cases, which currently depends upon the participation of the victim, would be to move toward "evidence-based" prosecution, which does not rely upon the victim to testify.