Pittsfield — The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office launched a new Domestic Violence High Risk Team to bring multiple disciplines together in strengthening domestic violence responses.
The Domestic Violence High Risk Team, developed from best practices outlined by the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence identifies domestic violence cases with a heightened risk of lethality and provides a structure for stakeholders to collaborate on developing and implementing intervention plans.
The District Attorney’s Office meets with the Department of Children and Families, Community Corrections, the Massachusetts Parole Board, Department of Probation Victim Services, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Probation Departments in all four Berkshire courts, the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, Massachusetts State Police, and 13 local police departments to share and review case-specific information. The organizations monitor and discuss risk indicators, offender history, nature of the offense, and developments such as releases from incarceration, parole, and probation.
“The goal of this team is to prevent homicides. Each one of these organizations plays a different role in protecting domestic violence victims and by collaborating, we can close off gaps in the system that arise. My office will continue to hold perpetrators accountable but we would much rather prevent victims from being victimized by their intimate partners in the first place,” District Attorney Andrea Harrington said.
“We are grateful for the highly skilled professionals working in public safety here in Berkshire County and I admire their dedication to continuously improve our collective response to domestic violence.”
The High Risk Team complements the Berkshire District Attorney’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force. The task force focuses on building a community response to addressing domestic and sexual violence and the High Risk Team strengthens the legal and law enforcement response.
“The best tool we have to protect everyone involved is to know what we are walking into. Knowing a suspect’s history, the likelihood of weapons, and other risk factors prepare our officers to respond in a way that will have the best outcome.
This team provides us that information and we work with them to design intervention plans that best serve victims and save lives,” North Adams Police Chief Jason Wood said.
“As a small county, are very good at collaborating. We depend on the great work of many other agencies to provide the whole spectrum of services to protect our residents. This is another example of agencies in multiple disciplines coming together on the shared goal of preventing tragedy. “
Berkshire County is the last county in the Commonwealth to launch a High Risk Team. Nancy Glass and Jacquelyn Campbell at Johns Hopkins University developed a danger assessment, which the High Risk Team uses to guide its decisions. The nationally recognized assessment is an evidence-based approach to prevent domestic violence homicide.
Some of the biggest indicators of lethality access to weapons, strangulation, mistreatment of animals, stalking, threats, violating restraining orders, suicidal ideations, drug and alcohol use, mental health. By identifying the risk signs early, the group can provide targeted interventions.
“Our administration is proud to support the launch of Berkshire County’s Domestic Violence High Risk Team, which will strengthen the ability of local law enforcement to intervene and protect those most vulnerable to abuse,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Thank you to District Attorney Harrington and the members of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence for their continued partnership to support survivors and end domestic violence in Massachusetts.”
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington’s office serves all 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County. The office represents the Commonwealth in more than 7,500 criminal cases per year in Berkshire Superior Court, three district courts, three juvenile courts, Massachusetts Appeals Court, and Supreme Judicial Court. The office works closely with the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force, and collaborates with local police departments across the county. A dedicated staff of more than 50 prioritizes public safety, empowering victims and witnesses through services and support, and building a safe community for everyone and especially the most vulnerable.