Lynchburg city police are working to combat domestic violence in a new way

Patrol officers use a questionnare to screen victims and find them help

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Lynchburg city police are working to combat domestic violence in a new way.  It’s just the latest in a growing number of law enforcement agencies using a new assessment form.
With a push from the Commonwealth's attorney general, Lynchburg’s police department is one of the first in Central Virginia to now carry the national lethality assessment.

“This assessment tool helps us to show them the danger levels and it also helps us to see the danger levels a little bit better,” Officer Eric Westervelt said.

The questionnaire is an asset used in the field by patrol officers when called to a domestic situation.

“If we look around the house and the house is trashed because that person threw a microwave across the room and knocked the TV off and broke it those are all signs that there's a violent tendency there from that person, the suspect, who may act out in a different (way) later,” Westervelt said.

Questions a victim may be asked from the assessment are, "Do you think he or she might kill you?" Based on the results, the higher the score, the greater the risk.

“It prompts us to make a phone call to the domestic violence shelters locally who have a 24 hour hotline set up so that we can call them. They can ask more questions.” Westervelt said.

Police say they use their best judgment to get the victim out, and placed somewhere safe, like a shelter.

“If you answer 'yes' to these three questions that's automatically a reason for them to call us, and before they call us they let the victim know that there is a service that's available,” said Brenda Dunning, the coordinator advocate for YWCA.

In collaboration with the YWCA of Central Virginia, police and advocates say only time will tell. But they say the best choice is to get out while you can.

Contact the YMCA Hotline for help at 434-528-1041

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