Updated August 10, 2020 - 1:41 pm
With a rise in domestic violence reports during the pandemic, authorities said Thursday that nearly $7 million in federal grant money would be aimed at curbing the most severe abuse cases in Nevada.
In announcing the funding, Nevada U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich pointed to a rise in reports of abuse this year and said 26 percent of homicides in the past six months were tied to domestic violence.
“The truth is that in Nevada we have a steep hill to climb with respect to domestic violence,” Trutanich said during a news conference for what was dubbed “Project Veronica,” named for Veronica Caldwell, who was shot and killed, along with her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend, by her husband in 2015.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, whose office would receive more than $2 million, said that while the pandemic has forced people to stay home for months, “sometimes the dangers are in the home.”
In April alone, when most Nevadans were ordered to stay home, the Metropolitan Police Department reported that the number of domestic violence calls jumped at least 13 percent.
The number of victims at domestic violence shelters nearly doubled in May and June compared with the 2019 tallies, Trutanich said.
Genese Jones-Torrence, vice president of crisis services for SafeNest, the state’s largest nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence, praised the grants as a “significant change” that would help the organization handle a 21 percent increase in calls to its hotline since the pandemic.
“COVID has presented new challenges to victims, including intensified isolation and additional barriers,” she said. “When you have to stay at home with your abuse, where do you go? Who do you turn to?”
Last month, Metro launched a “text to 911” program to help people who can’t call during an emergency. Advocates for domestic violence victims said it would help victims contact authorities safely.
As part of the grant, the Clark County district attorney’s office will receive $600,000 over three years to help prosecute domestic violence-related gun crimes and a further $300,000 to “enhance relationships between law enforcement and a community-based victim service provider,” such as SafeNest.
“This is exactly what law enforcement should be, a collaborative effort, a combination of resources to work together,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said.
Almost $1 million will be awarded to assist the Yerington Paiute and Shoshone-Paiute tribes with enhancing their domestic violence and sexual assault services.
Nevada’s rural communities will receive more than $1 million as part of the initiative, while more than $1.5 million will be awarded to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in part to “foster partnerships between organizations that have not traditionally worked together to address violence against women.”