Stronger support for domestic violence victims helps them to escape abusive and potentially deadly relationships, but it also can make the community safer by breaking multi-generational cycles of violence. It's important, then, for New Orleans to continue efforts to make resources readily available to victims and to improve police effectiveness in handling such cases.
The New Orleans Family Justice Center, which was created in 2007 with a $3 million federal grant, has helped 2,000 victims and their children by providing all the services they need under one roof. For example, a domestic violence victim might need a restraining order and counseling as well as help with housing and child care.
For that model to work, it's important for victims to find everything they need in one place. But center officials say they have outgrown the current location at 830 Julia Street and are now using two buildings, which isn't ideal.
Organizers have asked city officials to help them find a new permanent facility that's large enough to house the criminal justice agencies and nonprofits that help domestic abuse victims.
The Landrieu administration should do what it can to assist the center. Mary Claire Landry, director of Catholic Charities' domestic violence program and head of the Family Justice Center, said that city officials
have promised to help the group find a building or land, and that's encouraging.
Making sure that police are effective in responding to domestic violence cases also is critical.
A recent Department of Justice report found serious shortcomings in how police handle such cases. Officers frequently failed to find and interview witnesses, for example, and rarely interviewed suspects. Federal investigators did not find a single police report in those that they reviewed that contained a referral to the Family Justice Center.
Certainly victims should be referred to the center. The Department of Justice report also recommended that the NOPD and the center work together to create a domestic violence protocol for police.
Superintendent Ronal Serpas met with local and national advocates last week to begin the process, and that's a step in the right direction.
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