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Second Responders Program: A Coordinated Police and Social Service Response to Domestic Violence (From Violence Against Women and Family Violence: Developments in Research, Practice, and Policy, 2004, Bonnie Fisher, ed. -- See NCJ-199701)

NCJ Number
Erin Lane; Rosann Greenspan; David Weisburd
Date Published
11 pages
This paper reports on a process and outcome evaluation of Richmond's Second Responders Program (Virginia), which is a collaborative effort of the Richmond Department of Social Services and the Richmond Police Department in responding to incidents of domestic violence.
The Second Responders consists of a unit of social workers who operate out of two (of four) police precincts between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. They respond to incidents of domestic violence and other human service cases while the police are still at the site of an incident. At the scene, the Second Responders offer immediate services to victims and their families. In almost all situations, Second Responders provide victims with information about services offered through the Department of Social Services and other agencies and assist in the development of a plan to access these services. Second Responders refer each night's domestic violence cases to the Family Violence Prevention Program in the Department of Social Services. Each case is assigned to a worker, who is required to contact the victim within 72 hours. Because the project was fully implemented in two of the four police precincts of the city, evaluation researchers could use a quasi-experimental design, with an experimental group drawn from the two program precincts and a control group designated from the two precincts without the program. Subjects eligible for contact by the researchers had to be 18 years old or older, a resident of Richmond, and a female victim of abuse by a former or current intimate partner. Researchers conducted 158 first-wave interviews and 120 second-wave (6 months later) interviews. There were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups on demographics, including age, race, marital status, living situation, education, work status, income, and household size. The evaluation found that in most cases Second Responders provided safety assessments and information services, including referrals on a range of available social assistance and legal protections. Direct services were provided less often. Many more experimental subjects than control subjects were contacted by a worker shortly after the incident; however, 45 percent of experimental subjects reported they had not been contacted by a worker after the domestic violence incident. Subjects who received Second Responder assistance had much more positive views of the police encounter than control subjects. There were also significant differences between the experimental and control groups regarding the types and extent of services provided by the police. Further, victims in the experimental group were more likely to have obtained emergency protective orders the night of the incident. These preliminary evaluation findings show significant promise for the program and for similar interventions that combine social worker and police services at the site of the initial response to domestic violence. Implications of these findings are drawn for researchers and for practitioners. 7 exhibits and 12 references