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New Pilot Program Aims To Stop Domestic Violence Before It's Too Late

RICHMOND (KPIX) --Police agencies from around the country are in the Bay Area this week to check out a program that is helping victims of domestic violence.

On April 4 in Richmond, Rashanda Franklin was shot dead in her car by her ex-boyfriend as her children watched.

On April 27th, Roselyn Policarpio was murdered in Walnut Creek. Her husband was arrested after a 19-hour standoff in Martinez. Those cases raise the question: could these fatal incidents of domestic violence have been prevented?

Police officers in Richmond and Concord and Brentwood here in the Bay Area are hoping a new pilot program will make a difference. Funded by the feds, it's also being tried out in Miami and Cleveland and several other cities around the country. Officers now ask every domestic violence victim a series of questions.

"We ask certain questions like, is there a gun in the home? Past incidents of violence ... what type of violence? And strangulation is a big portion of that," says Asst. Chief of the Richmond Police Department Bisa French.

If the victim answers too many questions with a "yes," they are informed they are in serious danger.

"They let the victim know that they are at risk of homicide," says Caylin Patterson of the Contra Costa Alliance to End Abuse.

The next step is crucial. Police immediately call county services to get the victim out of the house as soon as possible.

"We find that if we pick up the phone and we dial the number and hand them the phone, they're more likely to say "let me hear what this person has to say,"say French.

"Lucy" is a domestic violence survivor. Her ex almost killed her. She says the current system of a cop handing a victim a pamphlet and expecting them to call later is just not that effective.

"You don't call, because people don't believe you," she said. "They say, 'Maybe she's lying, because if it's true, why is she still living with the abuser?' When police call, it's a difference. It's better."

So far, only three cities in Contra Costa County are using the new protocol. Domestic violence advocates are hoping to expand it county-wide as soon as possible.

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