Tuesday, July 1, 2014

(Tulare County) Grand Jury reports on domestic violence

July 1, 2014
Visalia Times-Delta
By Eric Woomer

The grand jury is asking the Tulare County District Attorney's Office to seek more resources to combat domestic violence.
In its recently released 2013-14 report, the grand jury investigated domestic violence in Tulare County and found local law enforcement is providing "critical and valuable" education to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. The crime accounts for more than 8,000 calls for service to police in Visalia and Tulare.
About 10 percent of those resulted in an arrest.
The investigation looked at the number of calls to each of the local law enforcement agencies and what people can do if they've been a victim of domestic abuse. The report also glanced over the social side of domestic violence, denouncing those who use such factors as stress, alcohol and drugs and family issues.
"Domestic violence is a learned behavior, a conscious choice, and it is found in every level of society," the report states. "The county of Tulare and city law enforcement, provide critical, valuable and available educational and awareness resources relating to domestic violence."
When it came to noting resources for victims in Tulare County, the report fell short, according to Caity Meader, executive director of Family Services of Tulare County, for failing to mention the nonprofit which is the largest provider of domestic violence resources in the county. Milt Morrison, the jury's foreman, said he believes the omission was based on a lack of exposure and a simple mistake.
"Somehow they got missed. The intent was to serve the public and the public would have been served to include them," Morrison said.
Meader said she was disappointed that after representatives spent several hours with the grand jury last fall that they weren't included in the final report. Family Services, a $3.8 million nonprofit organized 31 years ago, serves more than 3,000 victims each year. It's one of just two domestic violence emergency shelters, including Central California Crisis Center in Porterville.
"We are extremely proud to partner with many local government departments to accomplish our work, including the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, the District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's [Department], the Probation Department, as well as many other incredible collaborative bodies and partner organizations," Meader said.
The grand jury pointed readers to Tulare County courts and the Self Help Center, which can help people file restraining orders and the center in Porterville. The grand jury also recommended people contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers a variety of information and links to local service providers.
The grand jury recommends that the DA's office apply for any grant that could boost awareness or make more services available for victims of domestic violence.
Dan Underwood, an assistant district attorney, said the recommendation made by the grand jury is something his office already does. They currently have one grant for $184,238 to combat domestic violence. The DA's office will be required to respond to the report.
Other 2013-2014 reports:
• Charter schools
• Small school districts
• Water issues
• Delta Vector Control District
• Public Defender's Office
The grand jury ended its session officially on Monday. A handful of current members will continue to serve on the jury and as many as 10 will be chosen for the next group. Morrison said while his term is over, he is considering putting his name in the hat for the 2015-16 grand jury.
A set of alternates will also be chosen. The 2013-14 grand jury went through a dozen alternate members after some members didn't like the way the jury was being run. Morrison said once the "power-grab kerfuffle" was resolved and a considerable amount of time was spent assigning new jurors, they "went to work."
The random-drawing for new jurors will be held at 1:30 p.m. today in Department 10 at the Tulare County Courthouse in Visalia.

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