Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, SafeHouse Center awarded Gun Violence Prevention Grant

 On June 7, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office and SafeHouse Center announced that they were awarded an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant to develop a campaign to reduce gun-related deaths in Washtenaw County. The partnership will focus specifically on intimate-partner violence (IPV)—one of the leading dynamics that result in gun-related homicides.

SafeHouse Center is the nonprofit, non-governmental agency charged with providing direct services to victims of intimate-partner violence and sexual assault in Washtenaw County.

Under the program, the partners will employ an outreach coordinator and community liaison to develop a community campaign focused on IVP-related gun risks, warning signs, and available resources and legal avenues.

The campaign will specifically emphasize Michigan’s recently enacted Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law. That law allows a court to temporarily remove firearms from a person’s possession if they pose a risk to themselves or others. More broadly, the campaign will educate the community on intimate-partner dynamics, and provide a point-of-contact IPV survivors can contact to answer questions regarding intimate-partner violence, ERPOs, and personal protection orders (PPOs).

Under the supervision of SafeHouse professionals and Washtenaw County’s lead domestic-violence prosecutor, the outreach coordinator will schedule, plan, and deliver “push-in” workshops at schools, workplaces, faith-based organizations, and community groups. Workshops will provide information on intersections between intimate-partner violence and gun violence; the ERPO Act and process; and broader information on healthy relationships. Finally, the coordinator will conduct at least one “train-the-trainer” workshop quarterly to empower community leaders to disseminate information.

“We know that the presence of a firearm in a domestic-violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%,” said Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit.  “Working alongside our SafeHouse partners, this grant will allow us to provide community members with legal information that will keep survivors safe. In so doing, we can prevent violence before it occurs.”

“Domestic violence incidents, including homicides, continue to impact our local community on a daily basis,” said Christine Watson, Executive Director of SafeHouse. “We are grateful for this opportunity to shine a light on the experiences of survivors, victims and their families, and strengthen our community based services and work in collaboration with the Prosecutor’s Office.”

“Nationwide, more than 2/3 of mass shootings are committed by individuals with a history of domestic violence,” said Jessica Blanch, Lead Domestic Violence Prosecutor for Washtenaw County. “The correlation between domestic violence and gun violence is apparent. Domestic violence affects every corner of our community. This grant will allow us to come together as a county and stop gun violence.”

The Edward Byrne Justice Memorial Grant is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to states and local units of government. The grant was competitively sub-granted to Washtenaw County by the Michigan State Police Grants and Community Services Division, which is guided by a State Advisory Board including representatives from law enforcement, the community, courts, prosecution, behavioral health providers, victim services, legal counsel, and research/evaluation.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved acceptance of the grant at its meeting on June 5.

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