Grant could save 1-stop center

Domestic violence: Family justice center for city and county would build on San Diego example, but plan to pay for it failed

November 28, 2003 

Tacoma and Pierce County still might get a one-stop center to help domestic violence victims, though voters nixed a proposed sales tax that would have helped pay for it.

"We're moving forward," Tacoma City Councilman Rick Talbert said. "We're not going to let the sales tax deter us."

Talbert has worked on domestic violence issues with the City Council since Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and himself April 26.

The sales tax proposal failed at the polls Nov. 4. It would have raised about $26 million a year for crime and safety spending.

Tacoma and Pierce County officials planned to spend the bulk of the money to hire law enforcement officers.

Tacoma and Pierce County officials had said they planned to use some of the money for a downtown Tacoma domestic violence center and several satellite centers throughout the county.

Talbert and others said a joint city-county center would be one of the best things they could do for domestic violence victims.

President Bush recently endorsed the centers, which he termed "family justice centers." He announced that $20 million in grants will be awarded to 12 communities to help create family justice centers. Employees of Tacoma and Pierce County are working to apply for a grant.

The application is due Feb. 5, said Eileen O'Brien, Pierce County's justice services manager. Grants probably will be awarded next fall, she said.

Representatives of Tacoma and Pierce County have been meeting weekly to talk about what to request in the application, said O'Brien, Talbert and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.

In a family justice center, victims can work with attorneys, detectives and advocates who help them as those accused of abusing them go through the legal system. In some centers, victims meet with people who help them get temporary housing and other emergency assistance.

San Diego's family justice center is considered a role model for the nation.

Before it was created, victims had to go to as many as 32 places to get the help they needed. San Diego officials found some victims returned to their abusers because they were confused by the system.

Since the center has opened, no victim who's used it has been killed, said San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn.

"It is the future of services in America for family violence victims," he said.

San Diego's center serves only city residents. Tacoma and Pierce County's proposal would take the idea further by combining city and county services.

"We're going to be better," Ladenburg said. "We're going to take the good parts and make it better."

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658

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