LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Law enforcement agencies say a $7M federal grant will allow them to target the most serious domestic violence offenders and victim service agencies call it a game changer in the effort to protect victims.
“The murder rate in Southern Nevada is driven by domestic violence homicides,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich who announced the funding on Thursday. He said domestic violence murder accounts for 26% of all homicides.
“We have a steep hill to climb when it comes to domestic violence.” In April, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department saw a 13% increase in domestic violence calls,” Trutanich said adding that shelters are taking in double the number of victims as compared to last year.
The grant will launch “Project Veronica” which is named after a local victim of domestic violence. Law enforcement will use the Department of Justice grant to work collaboratively to target offenders before the violence escalates to homicide.
“We have seen over the last many months a greater percentage of gun cases that are based on the offender’s status as a domestic abuser,” Trutanich said.
He said his office meets weekly with law enforcement agencies to determine the best jurisdictions for those cases. His office has 30 current cases where the alleged offenders are also facing federal charges.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said his office receives scores of domestic violence cases every week and said although most are misdemeanors, law enforcement is targeting felons and abusers who possess guns.
“The misdemeanor of today, the punch, the push, the shove, turns into the felony homicide case tomorrow.”
The funding will also prop up numerous agencies facing major budget shortfalls continue with their efforts to help domestic violence victims.
Genese Jones-Torrence who is the vice president of Crisis Services for SafeNest said they have experienced a 21% increase to the hotline phone number since the COVID-19 pandemic started. She said the pandemic has presented new challenges for victims.
“When you have to stay at home with your abuser, where do you go or turn to?”
SafeNest has expanded its shelter to take in more victims.