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Protocol will help keep women safe

The safety net protecting women and children at the highest risk of domestic violence is about to get tighter in the Central Okanagan.

RCMP Superintendent, Bill McKinnon announced Monday morning a new protocol designed to protect those who are at the highest risk of serious harm or death.

"This protocol will help ensure the safety of women and children in our city," says McKinnon.

"The protocol sets out the roles and responsibilities of all service providers across the justice system, community, and child welfare systems who respond to domestic violence. Member agencies who are party to the protocol provide enhanced case coordination and information sharing when there is an assessed risk of serious bodily harm or death."

McKinnon says the agencies involved include the RCMP, Community Corrections, MCFD Child Welfare, Elizabeth Fry Society Specialized Victims Assistance, Cerntral Okanagan RCMP Victim Services and Kelowna Women's Shelter.

Aimee Thompson, Agency Coordinator of the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, says in the past the protocol was fairly ad hoc in terms of service coordination.

"What this protocol does is tighten up the process and allow us to share information where there is risk and allow us to create a tighter safety plan for women and children who are the victims in these cases," says Thompson.

She says the protocol is in response to specific high profile cases such as the case with Alan Schoenborn in Merritt.

Thompson says several communities have piloted this kind of model very successfully.

"Some of the things we have been seeing as a result is a reduce in the number of breaches or re-committing of offenses against women in these relationships," says Thompson.

"It's been a very positive experience for us to work with the RCMP and the Women's Shelter and child welfare and look at tightening up our circle of support in our community for women who are at a high risk of domestic violence."

Thompson says the Elizabeth Fry Society responded to over 2,000 calls for assistance while McKinnon estimates the RCMP are in the vicinity of 1,200 calls each year for domestic violence.

"If you break that down, that's almost four calls a day for domestic violence that we respond to and I would suggest that's pretty significant because they are some of the worst kinds of calls we have to deal with," says McKinnon.

The Elizabeth Fry Society received a $5,000 grant as part of the Civil Forfeiture Crime Prevention Grant awarded to the city earlier this year in order to bring the partners together for this project.

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