Wichita Police Department Lieutenant Christian Cory is pleased with the strides made by the WPD in reducing incidents of domestic violence.
With funding from several sizable grants, in 2020 the department was able to launch a couple of new initiatives to help close the cycle of domestic violence, by getting the most violent offenders off the street.
“We were Interested in dropping the number of domestic violence cases, simply through arresting offenders,” Cory said. “Getting our really violent people arrested, getting the process started on them, and getting them in the system.”
With the initial funding, in February the department launched a domestic violence pilot program. Prior to that, WPD had a combined domestic violence and sex crime section, consisting of a dozen detectives who worked felony sex crimes, adult sex crimes, and domestic violence cases. With the funding, they were able to build a team that just focused on domestic violence cases.
In September, with additional grant funding in hand, the department assembled a team coined “DIVRT,” an acronym for Domestic Intervention Violence Reduction Team. Comprised of a half dozen men and women, and one supervisor, the DIVRT team handles what is referred to as pickups, which boosts the department’s ability to expedite warrants for felony domestic violence cases.
With the offender still on the street, Victims might still be living in fear, maybe in a shelter, or in a hotel. And they can’t get their life back together because this offender is still on the loose. And that’s why those protection orders are so important, at getting them arrested.
Domestic Violence Priority
In 2020, there were roughly 1,100 domestic violence cases in Wichita, such as aggravated assault, battery and strangulation. “A lot of these are very serious crimes, like strangulations,” said Cory
Addressing domestic violence was a priority of Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. “This is probably the busiest investigative section in the state, and they wanted to move the needle, so-to-speak.
Since the implementation of DIVRT, the arrests for incidents of felony domestic violence have been up, with the WPD making 97 felony arrests in the final three months of 2020. Cory said the bulk of those pickups would have gone “untouched” had DIVRT not been in place.
“We had a lot of outstanding pickups and felony warrants for our offenders, and that’s what DIVRT started doing,” Cory noted. “They started closing that time from incident to time of arrest. We felt that was really important, so that victims can make decisions about their lives.”
Breaking the Cycle of Violence
Cory added that DIVRT also looks to break the cycle of violence, with what they refer to as an “offender focus program.”
Using their grant funds and evidence-based strategies, the plan to begin to focus more on the offenders as a way to break the cycle of domestic violence.
“We’ll work with our judiciary, work with our local community advocates, and
focus on the offenders as we’re building that program out.”
Violence Growing in Pandemic
Despite the progress noted by Cory, local incidents of violent crimes have increased during the global pandemic.
“The pandemic has posed challenges for us,” Cory said adding that the spikes in domestic violence cases they are seeing have been typically serious in nature — such as strangulation.
“The increase in cases this year was up 13% from last year, and was up 35% over a five-year average. July was our busiest month with felony cases.”
Recently, WPD received a federal Violence Against Women (VAWA) grant.
“That’s going to give us another in-house advocate,” Cory said, adding the focus of this grant will be on protective orders.
Cory said with the VAWA grant, a lethality assessment protocol will be administered, with an advocate asking the victim a series of questions to screen for red flags. The overarching purpose is to determine the degree of potential violence in the relationship they’re in.
“They’ll determine if there are markers for continued violence, or serious-injury and/or death,” Cory said. “They’ll identify the high-risk victims, and prioritize those for both our DIVRT team and our detectives.
Cory said the grant will also help with safety planning for victims.
“It will help with getting (victims) protection orders, and referring them to where they need to go — community-based services,” he said. “There’s long-term transitional housing, emergency shelters, emergency hotlines in our community — groups that offer a ton of services that they would be referred to.”
Cory said it means a lot to him to see how successful the department’s initiatives have been.
“we’re starting to see some (positive) trends in the numbers that are survivor-driven, and justice focused. And that’s kind of what we rely on every day.”
Added Cory: “We want to keep this trend down, help people break that cycle and get out of these bad relationships. Even if this loved one is drug or alcohol-addicted, we want to see them get help, and have them live a productive, healthy life as citizens in our city.”