Domestic violence victims can now be better equipped to provide for their own safety and the safety of their children through a new order of protection notification system, advocates for victims of domestic violence said Tuesday.
The new program, spearheaded by the state Sheriff’s Association Institute, now allows for victims to be notified automatically when orders of protection issued from Family Court are served on the alleged abuser.
Once they’re served, formally notifying the targeted party of the order details, the orders become active. The notification also starts a dangerous time for victims, advocates say, as the person the victim is leaving can become enraged and try to retaliate.
The program, run through NYAlert.gov, allows victims to sign up for notification via a variety of means, from email to text message, fax or automated phone call, notifying them quickly of the status of the order. There’s even a free iPhone app called iAlertz.
The program has been running in Schenectady County since the summer, officials said, with victims notified of it through the court and victim advocates.
Carole Merrill-Mazurek, director of women’s services for the YWCA, said the program has been a success so far.
“We’ve done this at the shelter with wonderful results,” Merrill-Mazurek said at an event held Tuesday at the YWCA announcing the program. “Victims feel this is another tool they have to keep themselves safe. Victims know how dangerous it is when an order of protection is served.”
The program deals mainly with Family Court orders that the victim has requested. Once issued, the order goes to the sheriff’s department, where deputies find the person and serve them.
The process is somewhat different for criminal courts, where the targeted party is arrested and brought before a judge directly. If an order of protection is issued there, it is served upon the initial court appearance and effective then.
With Merrill-Mazurek at Tuesday’s event were representatives of several local law enforcement agencies, including city and town police departments, area sheriff’s departments and the state police.
To sign up, victims are offered information and help when the order is issued. If they get past that without signing up, they can go to www.NYAlert.gov/op and enter the required information there.
The signup site also includes the warning that victims should not depend solely on the notification for protection, advising victims to seek help and take appropriate precautions if they are at risk.
The program is officially called the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification Network — New York, or SAVIN-NY. The Sheriff’s Association Institute received a $495,000 grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to start the program in New York state. The institute then worked with various law enforcement and advocacy organizations to put it in place.
The pool of victims that the program can help is large, 4th Judicial District Administrative Judge Vito Caruso said at the event.
Last year alone, family courts outside of New York City issued 38,000 temporary orders of protection and 12,500 final orders. In most, if not all, there was some lag time between issuance and service to the targeted party.
“You can see from those numbers that this is an important project that involves many, many people,” Caruso said.
Gwen Wright, acting executive director of the state Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence, called the time after an order is served a critical one.
With the knowledge that an order has been served, victims can better provide for their own safety and inform police when violations happen, Wright said.
Among the law enforcement officials present was Niskayuna Police Chief John Lubrant. After the event, Lubrant praised the program, saying the problem spans jurisdictions.
“Domestic violence is a problem for everybody,” Lubrant said. “I think this is an excellent program for both domestic violence victims and for law enforcement, and also it empowers victims to take some actions themselves.”