New tool to prevent domestic violence homicides to roll out across North Carolina

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced a new tool to protect domestic violence victims.

A Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) is used by counselors and law enforcement to determine which victims are at a high risk of being killed or re-assaulted.

LAP is already being used in Mecklenburg County, but now every officer across the state will be trained to ask the necessary questions to help victims and connect them with agencies that can help, according to Stein.

“If we intervene at that critical moment we can help save lives,” said Stein. “Because when victims of domestic violence are connected with service providers who can give them that wrap around support that they need we will decrease the number of people who are ultimately murdered by their intimate partner.”

Last year more than 3000 assessments were performed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers. Half of the victims were deemed to be “in high danger,” Chief Ker Putney said.

“It helps us save lives,” said Putney. 

LAP gives law enforcement officers a set of criteria to consider when determining whether a person is in danger of being killed by his or her partner. That criteria includes past incidents of violence, as well as other non-violent and non-illegal behavior that research indicates may be linked to homicides. Officers then on the spot connect the victims with domestic violence service providers so they have information and access to resources to get and stay safe.

Audra Toussaint is a domestic violence survivor. She says was emotionally and physically assaulted by her ex-husband. 

“I was filled with fear,” she said. “Fear was and still is his most powerful weapon.”

Toussaint says a friend’s call to 911 saved her life.

“I do remember they asked if I feared for my safety and if I felt like he might try to kill me,” said Toussaint, who said officers referred her to Safe Alliance, and waited with her while she gathered her belongings and left with her daughter. “I told them that I was terrified and I didn’t know what he was capable of.”

She says in the past six years, he has violated a restraining order 10 times.

“Each time I call for help Charlotte Mecklenburg police officers come to my aid,” she said. “Giving our officers the tools that they need to effectively identify the signs of abuse will save lives.”