One city's success in domestic violence cases prompts closer look at Central Florida

News 6 investigates how to get results in our community

Domestic violence continues to be a problem here in Central Florida.

It is an issue that leaders in the community have tried to tackle head-on.

But a recent study shows little progress has been made.

In fact, according to that study, intimate partner violence cases rarely see the inside of a courtroom.


Investigative Reporter Eryka Washington researched to see what city is getting results for domestic violence victims in their community and finds out if those solutions can be applied here in Central Florida.

A three-year study shows that even with law enforcement implementing everything from specialized domestic violence training for officers to 911 operators, nothing has moved the needle.

Ninety-two percent of domestic violence cases are dropped by the state attorney’s office. And it’s been like that for the last 10 years.

We researched and found one of the top cities in the nation for handling intimate partner domestic violence cases is High Point, North Carolina.

So we traveled there to see how the city of High Point is getting results for its community.

"Staring us in the face was intimate partner violence," police Capt. Tim Ellenberger said.

Capt. Ellenberger credits their success to their unique approach-- High Point focuses on the offender.

"Once we start paying attention to him and looking into his record and telling him exactly what his record shows and where he's exposed, than then we're more likely to get a change in behavior," said Ellenberger.

For example, if an officer responds to a domestic violence call or makes a domestic violence arrest, within 48 hours that offender gets a face-to-face visit with an officer and is put on a watch list.

“Sometimes that's enough … sometimes it’s not,” Ellenberger said.

Domestic violence offenders  who want help come here.

"I think the greatest part of the program is merely the exposure -- they flee from the exposure," said Jim Summey.

Jim Summey is director of High Point Community Against Violence.

"We only work with the offender, that’s our job," Summey said.

He figures out what services a domestic-violence offender needs.

"I want them to just get it out, because part of what we do initially is a triage kind of thing ...I need to know where they are so I know where to put them," Summey said.

Offender Focused DV Initiative Report Aug 2014

Whether its drug rehab or counseling.

"Another big change that High Point has made is when it comes to prosecution, it is no longer the victim's responsibility,” Investigative Reporter Eryka Washington said.

Shay Harger works with domestic-violence victims and says that’s huge.

"Her behavior doesn't drive the case anymore.

We are not banking all of this court and all of the success or failure of this case on what the victim does," said Harger.

Victims in Orange County deserve results, too, so Washington met with Orange County MayorTeresa Jacobs.

"I think one of the key things you pointed out is taking the onus off of the victim and letting that be the state's responsibility on treating these offenses the way we treat most offenses is extremely important," said Mayor Jacobs.

"Do you think those methods can be implemented here?” Washington asked.

"Yes, I think they can. I will tell you there are some stark differences,” Mayor Jacobs said.

One big one--take the size of High Point, a small city of 100,000 compared to Orange County, home to 1.2 million.

“So is it more complicated, absolutely.

But complicated has never stood in the way of our region and our county taking on tough issues," Mayor Jacobs said.

"High Point has a re-offense rate less than 19 percent; on average, most places are 60-65 percent,” Washington said.

"I know it's very encouraging. It is very encouraging the results that they're having and it's the reason we absolutely have to look at this…what does it take to implement a system like that,“ Mayor Jacobs said.

The mayor says she plans on taking some key people from the Domestic Violence Commission on a trip to High Point and meet with officials there about their program.

In fact, she has already spoken to some board members and plans on bringing up High Point's domestic violence strategy at their next meeting.