Lexington police and the Domestic Violence Prevention Board announced that Lexington was awarded a $400,000 federal grant for domestic violence prevention.
The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon at a news conference with Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson and representatives from domestic violence resource centers. The grant, which Lexington has received for the third time, will be used to train police officers and increase court advocacy for victims. Authorities also will use the grant to create a position in the Commonwealth's Attorney's office to identify high-risk domestic violence cases and increase communications among victim-services agencies. It also could be used to help enact Amanda's Law, which is named after Amanda Ross, who was killed by her ex-fiancé, Steve Nunn.
Amanda's Law, which passed in 2010, allows domestic violence victims to be alerted by a GPS tracking system when their aggressors get too close. The two-year grant is paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice through the Violence Against Women Act.
Domestic Violence Prevention Board executive director Teri Faragher said Lexington has received the grant multiple times because it consistently shows results.
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"You have no chance of getting a continuation grant without showing results," Faragher said.
A 2006 University of Kentucky study found that domestic violence occurred in one in three Kentucky households. A national study in 1998 found that the national rate was one in four.
Lexington has about 1,100 domestic violence calls a year, according to police. The call numbers have been fairly consistent between 2005 and 2010, but arrests for domestic violence offenders in Lexington increased by 78 percent to 1,515 total charges, Faragher said.
"In many years of working in domestic violence, I have never seen such dramatic results," Faragher said.
Gray attributed the results to the partnerships that have formed between criminal justice agencies, law enforcement and victims services groups.
"The cooperation is making a big difference," he said.
Bastin agreed that the partnership is successful. He said he became involved with domestic violence as a rookie police officer in 1984. He took classes offered for police officers by many of the organizations involved in the partnership.
The training teaches officers how to collect evidence when they are called to domestic violence crime scenes, Faragher said. That helps successfully prosecute offenders, she said.
In the past four years, there was an increase of nearly 200 convictions — from 561 convictions in 2005 to 744 in 2009, according to Lexington police.
"There is nothing more important than safety in our homes and on our streets," Faragher said.
Domestic violence classes are being requested by more and more officers, she said.
"It goes back to a cultural change within our agency," Bastin said. "This is the third time we've received this grant. It shows the Department of Justice believes in what we're doing."