March 21, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s Office is leading an effort to form an interagency team of law enforcement officers, probation and parole officials, and service providers to coordinate and improve their response to domestic violence and sexual assault cases in St. Tammany Parish.
The group, which will be called the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT), held an organizational meeting Monday (March 19) at Montgomery’s office in the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center. The majority of law enforcement agencies in St Tammany attended the meeting, including Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz, Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker, Madisonville Police Chief Barney Tyrney, and representatives from the Pearl River Police Department and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
A total of about 25 people participated, including representatives from Safe Harbor Domestic Violence Program, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Ouachita Parish District Attorney’s Office, which is part of a similar team.
“We know domestic violence is not declining. It’s increasing,” Montgomery said. “It’s not something that’s going to decrease on its own. We’re trying to get ahead of it.”
About half of the 17 homicides that occurred in unincorporated St. Tammany last year were domestic violence related.
The objective of the team is to unify the agencies involved in domestic violence cases to act in coordination with each other, instead of as separate entities with separate policies and procedures. At the core of the team’s mission will be making victims safer and holding those engaged in sexual assault and domestic violence swiftly accountable.
Since taking office in 2015, the Montgomery administration has reduced the number of domestic violence cases that were dismissed by 76 percent.
“We’ve made significant strides in how this office responds and prosecutes domestic violence cases,” said Criminal Division Chief Collin Sims, who organized the team. “We want to build on the progress we’ve made and take the next step in combating this problem in our community.”
During the 3½-hour meeting, the group examined best practices from similar coordinated community teams around the country and the state. That included a presentation from Jennifer Johnson of the Ouachita Parish District Attorney’s Office, which in 2005 joined other local agencies and community partners to create a similar model. As part of the approach, the Ouachita District Attorney’s Office requests GPS monitoring of a domestic violence defendant at a bail hearing, Johnson said.
Since this approach was established in Ouachita Parish in 2005, reports of domestic and dating violence have dropped by nearly 48 percent, according to local media reports. Plus, between 2010 and 2014, domestic violence homicides dropped 70 percent.
In St. Tammany, the team members will be asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding as the next step in the process when the group meets on April 19. The team also will begin developing a set of uniform procedures that all law enforcement agencies will follow for handling domestic violence cases throughout the parish.