Ed Day, Rockland County Executive
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2015
Contact: Scott Salotto (845) 638-5645
DISTRICT ATTORNEY ZUGIBE, COUNTY EXECUTIVE DAY ANNOUNCE SUCCESS OF NEW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAM FUNDED BY SENATOR LARKIN
County's Mission Is Clear: More Support For Victims, Stronger Prosecutions To Help End The Violence And Save Lives
NEW CITY, NY -- Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, joined by County Executive Ed Day, New York State Senator William Larkin, Executive Director of the Center for Safety & Change Elizabeth Santiago and Haverstraw Supervisor Howard T. Phillips Jr., today highlighted the extraordinary success of a unique domestic violence victim assistance pilot program in Haverstraw and Stony Point, designed to ensure victims ongoing support and a meaningful role in the criminal justice system, according them due dignity and respect.
"Once a victim escapes a violent situation, his or her ordeal is not over," said District Attorney Zugibe. "In the months that follow, there are physical, mental, financial and legal concerns that must be addressed. Thanks to Senator Larkin, our domestic violence victim assistance program in North Rockland plays a critical role in providing support that allows a victim to face these issues and rebuild his or her life."
The program, launched in May, 2014, was made possible through a $75,000 grant secured by Senator Larkin, whose district includes Stony Point and Haverstraw.
The state funding allowed the District Attorney's Office Special Victims Unit to hire veteran Town of Haverstraw police detective Eleuterio Collazo. Detective Collazo is charged with two main responsibilities: (1) victim outreach and, (2) evidence-based prosecution, which includes case review and the training of local law enforcement in best practices of evidence-based (or victimless) prosecution.
Since the start of the program, Detective Collazo has managed 221 cases and performed 104 home visits. Of those visits, 27 were made to Spanish-speaking homes. Sixty-two of the individuals visited by Detective Collazo had Orders of Protection in their favor.
Crime victim services were provided or personally offered by advocates from the Center for Safety & Change to 255 victims of domestic violence since the program's inception in last year. Additionally, Detective Collazo receives up to three phone calls each week (to a special cell phone) from victims who would otherwise have no direct contact in law enforcement.
The pilot program also includes the participation of Dr. Richard King, a medical doctor and sworn detective at the District Attorney's Office. His presence at many of the home visits provides Detective Collazo and prosecutors deep insight into a victim's physical and emotional state.
In 2015, the instructional component involved 19 training classes led by Detective Collazo to teach evidence-based prosecution at the Rockland County Police Academy in Pomona.
The encouraging results of the program have prompted District Attorney Zugibe to seek additional state funding to enhance and expand services for victims of domestic violence throughout Rockland County in partnership with the Center for Safety & Change.
"It is my hope that we can build on the success of this program and expand it to reach more victims in Rockland County," said Senator Larkin. "It is our responsibility to make sure victims know that they are not alone in their struggles. I look forward to working with the county, our localities and my colleagues at the State level in continuing to provide assistance."
"It's a moral obligation of our government to do whatever it can to protect and support victims, be it a child, a spouse or a senior," said County Executive Ed Day. "I applaud Senator Larkin for providing the resources to help victims and families of domestic violence to recover from its affects and to be able to live in a world without fear. I am eager to work with District Attorney Zugibe, Senator Larkin and his fellow state representatives to bring this vital and effective program to Clarkstown, Orangetown and Ramapo, so that we can meet the needs in every community."
When Detective Collazo receives a new case, he performs an immediate review for additional evidence collection, witness interviews, upgrading or adding charges, etc. During the "knock and talk" home visits, Detective Collazo educates the victim on the criminal justice process and Orders of Protection and determines whether the individual is willing and able to cooperate in the prosecution of the offender.
Cases involving domestic violence are traditionally the most difficult to prosecute due to fear, financial repercussions and retaliatory threats by the offender. Evidence-based prosecution allows the District Attorney's Office to proceed without the victim, as is often the situation with homicide cases. The instructional component of this program trains local law enforcement agencies to apply the same investigative techniques used in a homicide to help stop the cycle of domestic violence in Rockland County.
Elizabeth Santiago said, "The Center for Safety & Change values the partnership and collaboration between the District Attorney's Office and law enforcement. This project is an example of how, together, we are working to create a coordinated, victim-centered community response."
Said District Attorney Zugibe, "Unfortunately domestic violence continues to be pervasive throughout Rockland County. It occurs across all socio-economic groups, races, ethnic and religious groups. It affects people in heterosexual and same-sex relationships, of all ages and physical abilities. I believe the success of our domestic violence victim assistance program in North Rockland will encourage Senator Carlucci, Assemblyman Zebrowski, Assemblywoman Jaffee and others to secure a new round of funding to ensure that victims of domestic violence throughout Rockland County have access to the resources and services needed to live safe and productive lives."