Domestic violence prevention program has success in St. Paul

October is domestic violence awareness month.  On Thursday, St. Paul police will talk about a program that helps victims of domestic violence from becoming repeat offenders. St. Paul's city council passed a resolution declaring that freedom from domestic violence is a universal human right.

"Domestic violence prevention is our number one priority because its homicide prevention,” Shelley Johnson Cline, executive director of the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, said.

Community advocates say a groundbreaking program is making sure that right isn't violated.  Five years ago, the city started Blueprint for Safety, which coordinates everything from police to prosecutors’ response to domestic violence calls.

Instead of treating the case as an isolated incident, officers ask the victim specific questions at the scene like, does he have a gun? Does he threaten to kill you? And does he ever try to choke you? These determine how likely the perpetrator may be to commit further violence.

"The Blueprint for Safety looks at domestic violence as a pattern of violence and breaks the isolation,” Johnson said.

As a result, domestic violence calls to 9-1-1 in St. Paul have dropped nearly in half from about 9,500 the year before the program started to less than 5,000 last year.  Community advocates say it’s because victims get the services they need during their first call, instead of becoming repeat victims of abuse.

"If you look at every 9-1-1 call as being someone harassed or battered in their home and you look at that being reduced almost in half. That’s huge. That’s so significant,” Johnson said.

Now other communities around the country are looking at the program as a blueprint for success.

"I think what the blueprint represents is each arm of the system working together represents the community coming together and holding perpetrators responsible and telling the community nobody is going to batter people in St. Paul and Ramsey County,” Johnson said.