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Suffolk program offers new tools against domestic violence

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, is joined

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, is joined by Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, right, Assistant Deputy County Executive Rebecca Sanin, left, and other agency representatives in announcing implementation of a pilot program to aid victims of domestic violence and increased DWI enforcement at a news conference in Hauppauge on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Victims of domestic violence seeking temporary orders of protection in Suffolk can submit requests electronically and speak to judges via video conference under a new program, officials said Thursday.

With the help of advocates and attorneys, individuals who suffer from domestic abuse can ask for orders of protection from remote sites, including shelters, hospitals, senior centers, and the First Precinct in West Babylon.

“So, as a pilot project, the services currently being offered in the First Precinct [are] a vital tool in enhancing victims’ safety as [they] provide for swift access to orders of protection immediately following an incident without the victim having to secure a means of presenting themselves or getting to family court,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said at a news conference in Hauppauge.

Victims of domestic violence often face challenges — including a lack of transportation and child care — that prevent them from traveling to the courthouse to obtain the court orders, advocates and officials said.

Once the court receives the electronic petition, a hearing is scheduled for the same day or the next day when the Family Court is open. The judge and the petitioner will chat via Skype. The petitioner is required to come to court in subsequent proceedings.

Ten million women and men, on average, were physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States a year, Sini said. About 61 percent of domestic violent offenders also have problems with alcohol and substance abuse.

During last year’s Super Bowl weekend, Suffolk received about 200 domestic violence calls, Sini said. The numbers are higher, he said, because most victims do not report the abuse.

“We take domestic violence extremely seriously. We want to keep everyone safe, and we’ll respond immediately and thoughtfully to ensure your protection,” Sini said. “We want to hear from you, if you are a victim of domestic violence.”

Suffolk was one of eight counties in New York selected to take part in the new program, which was announced in November. The other seven counties are Broome, Chautauqua, Columbia, Erie, Monroe, New York (Manhattan), and Westchester.

Family Court Supervising Judge Theresa Whelan handled the first electronic petition in Suffolk in November. She issued a temporary order of protection to a woman who made the request from a shelter.

“She was afraid to come to court,” Whelan said.

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