Team of Laconia police officers focussing on curbing incidents of domestic violence

LACONIA — A team of Laconia Police officers have turned their attention to domestic violence and how to curb it by working with community partners and educating victims on the services available to them

Office Adam Batstone presented a Problem Oriented Policing (POP) team spoke to the Police Commission yesterday, telling them that this year alone 290 of the city police calls were related in some way to domestic violence. Ninty-eight of those calls resulted in criminal investigations and police made 122 arrests.

Batstone acknowledges that since "Sumaria and before that" there has been domestic violence but recently public attitudes and police responses to it have changed.

Critical to the way Laconia Police handle domestic violence is using the Lethality Assessment Protocols, which is a series of questions responding officers ask every potential victim. If police thinks a person is being abused, the officer calls a hotline for the victim who gets an opportunity to discus his or her problem.

Before the new protocols, police would hand the victim a flyer and hope they sought help on their own.

"I have never had an issue with them (the hotline) answering," Batstone said, noting that he uses the hotline almost every time he responds to a domestic violence dispute.

He told the commissioners that New Beginnings, which is a woman's shelter in Laconia, Catholic Charities, the Family Violence Prevention Council and other advocacy groups work with victims to understand the law and to educate them as to what will happen when their abuser gets arrested.

Batstone said one of the key things police try to do in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence call that has resulted in an arrest is to encourage the victim to seek shelter somewhere else for the rest of the night.

He said some of the victims will "grab their children and go to the shelter."

"They (the alleged abuser) are released unless it's so serious they get cash bail," Batstone said, saying New Beginnings and the hotline advocates explain the difference between a bail order and a restraining order to the victim so he or she can better protect themselves.

Lt. Al Lessard said the Laconia Police Relief Family Fund has money to put a victim in a motel if there is no friends or family he or she can turn to for shelter.

Batstone also said the POP Domestic Violence team is working with New Beginnings and Catholic Charities and the Media Arts Program at the Huot Technical Center to produce a series of public service announcements for victims of domestic abuse.

Chief Chris Adams said the long-term police goal is the break the cycle of violence. He said it's not uncommon to have people who grew up in violent homes become abusers as adults.

POP Projects are conducted by the city police who set up teams of officers, supervisors, and civilians employees who study one particular police issue in a community and work to mitigate it.

Other recent examples of POP projects include under-aged drinking and the safety of Wyatt Park in the city's south end.

Members of the Domestic Violence POP are Capt. Matt Canfield, Sgt. Gary Hubbard, Sgt. Dennis Ashley, Batstone, Officer Michelle Cardinal, Officer Eric Adams, Detective Kevin Butler, Dispatcher Ken Smith, and Administrator Lori Marsh.