Earlier this year, the Westland Police Department formalized a partnership with First Step, in an effort to provide stronger, more immediate resources to victims of domestic violence, officials said.
As a result of this strengthened partnership, the Westland Police Department has named Alexis Reed as the Community Response Survivor Advocate. She is present in the department to facilitate more immediate assistance to those impacted by domestic and sexual violence. Reed graduated with a masters degree in victimology and criminal justice, with a special interest in trauma response. She has worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence for three years.
Domestic violence cases are the most dangerous and difficult cases for officers to respond to and for victims to work through, according to national statistics. Like many cities, Westland has seen a dramatic increase in domestic violence reported cases. This is especially true during the current high-stress environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik.
In 2018, Westland police officers responded to 1174 domestic violence or family trouble calls. This number grew in 2019 to 1207, and then to 1337 in 2020.
“While these calls sometimes result with a person arrested and criminally charged (216 in 2018, 297 in 2019 and 331 in 2020), 2/3 of domestic violence cases are not prosecuted, often due to victims who are afraid of the process and the uncertainty of the outcomes,” commented Jedrusik. “This is why it is so important for us to pursue a partnership with a trained and certified victims advocate.”
First Step is a non-profit agency that services individuals impacted by domestic and sexual violence in Wayne County. The mission of the non-profit facility is to eliminate domestic and sexual violence by providing comprehensive support services to the families and communities impacted by these crimes. All First Step services are free, voluntary, and confidential. Victims can opt in and out of services at any time and clients have complete control about information shared outside the agency. Participating in prosecution is not required to receive services, First Step officials said.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a spike in these types of cases during the COVID-19 pandemic and this partnership will be a great asset,” commented Mayor William R. Wild. “It is also our hope, through this formal collaboration, the Westland community will know that these crimes are being taken seriously and there is support for victims at every stage of the process at no cost.”
Reed, as community response survivor advocate, will provide support services for individuals identified as victims who are going through the criminal legal system including: Providing information on the criminal legal process; Informing victims of their legal rights; Accompaniment to criminal court hearings; Safety planning; Assistance in completing petitions for Personal Protection Orders; Connection to other First Step services and community resources.