Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), County Executive Chris Collins, City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark announced that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded Erie County a grant in the amount of $1,104,057 towards efforts that protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
“These federal resources provide local law enforcement and community advocates with additional tools to help free victims of domestic violence and provide Erie County residents impacted by this crime the opportunity to feel safe and secure in their homes,” said Congressman Higgins. Higgins congratulated Erie County Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin and other county departments for their success in writing this grant application and their continued advocacy on behalf of domestic violence victims.
The federal grant is authorized through the DOJ’s Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program. This program enhances victim safety and offender accountability by encouraging jurisdictions to implement pro-arrest policies as an effective intervention that is part of a coordinated community response. An integral component of this is the creation and enhancement of collaborative partnerships between criminal justice agencies, victim service providers and community organizations which respond to domestic violence and related offenses.
“Sadly, far too many people in our community are impacted by domestic violence,” said County Executive Collins. “When victims have the courage to come forward and report this abuse, they should be given the peace of mind that Protection Orders will be enforced and laws to stop and prevent this type of abuse will be strengthened. This grant from the Department of Justice will help us keep that pledge.”
Erie County, in a unique collaboration with multiple non-profit victim service agencies, Haven House, Hispanics United of Buffalo and the International Institute, will implement the BE-SAFE Program (Buffalo and Erie County Stopping Abuse in the Family Environment) in conjunction with the Erie County Department of Probation, the Erie County District Attorney, the Buffalo Police Department and the Erie county Family Justice Center.
"I thank Congressman Higgins and our entire federal legislative delegation for working to secure this important funding from the Department of Justice," said Mayor Brown. "Providing protection to the victims of domestic violence and other related crimes is crucial. What's particularly important is the collaboration, led by Erie County, between not-for-profit organizations and law enforcement agencies in using these grant funds to support individuals who have been victimized."
“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has seen the value in our BE-SAFE program initiative and has approved funding for another two years,” District Attorney Frank Clark stated. “We will continue to work with our partners to provide a multitude of services to victims of domestic violence in Erie County, which have shown us to be a national leader in domestic violence prevention”.
The grant will allow for direct service delivery to victims of family violence in the courts, their homes and at the Justice Center to increase the safety of the victims and their children and increase offender accountability. In addition the grant provides for: revision and updates to law enforcement training materials; specialized training to police officers and prosecutors in recognizing instances of family violence; an advocate to provide support for domestic violence victims from refugee and immigrant communities; a bilingual advocate to provide outreach, home and hospital visits, case management, counseling and court advocacy services for Hispanic victims; a probation officer to be assigned exclusively to the domestic violence unit and a prosecutor to assist victims in urban and rural communities.
Linda Ray, Executive Director of the Family Justice Center said, “The funding provided in this grant is key to the sustainability of the Family Justice Center of Erie County and to our ability to provide one-stop, free, wrap-around services to victims of domestic violence and their children. This one-stop model eliminates many of the barriers that victims face as they begin to rebuild their lives. We are grateful for the support of Congressman Higgins in Washington and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office locally.”
Last year there were 4,000 domestic violence arrests in Erie County alone. The BE-SAFE program will directly address the safety needs of these families. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.