"Hopeline" phones to help officers get services to domestic violence victims

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Attorney General Mark Herring is leading a new fight to help keep the number of domestic violence cases from rising.

He announced Wednesday plans to give cell phones to officers around the state for completing domestic violence training known as the "Lethality Assessment Protocol."

That training will allow officers to recommend services to people suffering from domestic violence, and those phones will allow them to make the call while on-scene.

Total Action for Progress, or TAP, offers a 24 hour hotline to victims of sexual assault, and it's one of the first resources police can call to get a victim of domestic violence in touch with services to help them.

One victim says that hotline may have saved her life.

Leah Hoover says her relationship with her former boyfriend didn't start out violent.

"When I had our son, that's when the physical violence started," said Hoover.

She says at first, she tried to hide the abuse, but things just got worse.

"It became a very routine thing for him to be physically hurting me, and it got to the point that he broke my pinky, I had to have surgery," said Hoover.

According to Attorney General Mark Herring, Hoover's situation could have easily turned deadly.

"In 2015, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner says there were 97 Family and Intimate Partner homicides, representing 25% of all homicides (388) in Virginia. One quarter," said Herring in a press conference Wednesday.

To combat this troubling trend, Herring says more than 100 officers around the state have already been trained in L.A.P.

They can determine when a victim needs to be removed from a dangerous situation.

Now, they'll all have phones to make that call.

"I'm really pleased to announce a new partnership with the HopeLine program from Verizon Wireless that will provide 500 mobile phones for use by local law enforcement around Virginia in implementing lifesaving lethality assessment protocol," said Herring.

Herring says the use of this program in Maryland has cut domestic homicides by a third in the last five years.

T.A.P. representatives say those results can come to the Roanoke Valley.

"The officers are able to call on-scene to the 24 hour hotline and will have those victims immediately access services, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said Director of Human Services Stacey Sheppard.

For Hoover, that hotline was her way out.

"I was notified, actually on the first call, about TAP, and that's when I started working with the program. They helped me with the courts and dealing with retaining the protective order," said Hoover.

It's been two years since Hoover had to make that call, but she says TAP is still helping her to this day.

"It felt like you had a friend in them, so it's great, it's been great," said Hoover.

Sheppard is actually a former Salem Police Officer, and she says the Salem, Roanoke, and Roanoke Valley departments all are currently implementing L.A.P.

Now, if necessary, any of those departments can request phones from the state to equip their officers to implement that training as quickly as possible.