HUMBOLDT PARK — The city's top government agencies have joined to create a domestic violence task force to target families considered at high risk for such abuse, officials announced Thursday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the pilot program in Humboldt Park and was joined by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Department of Family and Support Services Managing Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Welch.
The task force aims to keep problem cases from slipping between the cracks as they're handled by police, prosecutors and city social workers. It aims to identify high-risk households, improve police response, avert severe incidents of domestic violence and target high-risk offenders for prosecution.
It builds on a new Chicago Police Department training program announced in December meant to deal with domestic violence. McCarthy called the task force "the next step in our joint work."
Similarly, it builds on the state's attorney's Targeted Abuser Call, which Alvarez said focuses on the "most dangerous and violent cases of domestic violence."
The task force, which is being launched in the Shakespeare Police District, intends to smooth communications between the government agencies and, in high-risk cases, urge victims to seek help from the Department of Family and Support Services and its private partners in counseling, case management, shelter and legal services.
Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), who identified herself as a victim of domestic violence, joined in applauding the task force at a news conference at the Association House of Chicago Abused Women Center in Humboldt Park. Graham said such a coordination between agencies was not the case 20 years ago when she was a victim.
Welch called it "data-driven law enforcement."
Using metrics that indicate higher risk factors for domestic violence, it attempts to address problem families before the situation worsens. Among the questions officers, prosecutors and social workers are trained to ask are:
- Has the offender ever used or threatened to use a weapon against you or your children?
- Has the offender threatened to kill you or your children?
- Has the offender ever prevented you from leaving, seeking assistance, or calling the police?
- Has the offender experienced recent changes that caused more stress?
But the main purpose of the task force is to coordinate the various government agencies responding to domestic violence.
"We will make a difference in the lives of domestic-violence victims," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said Chicago Police handle hundreds of domestic calls each day, and last year registered 1,500 cases of aggravated battery with a knife, gun or other dangerous weapon. He called domestic violence a "highly stressful situation that is very dangerous for everyone involved, including the officers."
Emanuel said, on average, 10 percent of the city's homicides are related to domestic violence. The mayor said the pilot program would be expanded citywide by the end of summer "so we insure that every individual who's a victim is not a repeat victim."