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Domestic violence spotlighted

CARSON CITY — With the grim news that Nevada was first in the nation in the number of domestic violence deaths per capita in 2005, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on Thursday announced two new programs aimed at helping victims.

Flanked by 18 red T-shirts, 17 representing the deaths of women and men from domestic violence in 2005 and the 18th representing such deaths not officially connected to the crime of domestic violence, Cortez Masto reported on what her office and other agencies and groups are doing to combat the problem.

One program will assist law enforcement with training, and the other will help Nevada prosecutors in handling domestic violence cases.

“We should be doing so much more and so much better for Nevada’s families,” Cortez Masto said.

The key is coordination among law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates and treatment providers, she said.

When coordination occurs at every angle, Nevada will be able to help the victims and stop the cycle of violence, Cortez Masto said.

Law enforcement will be helped with an interactive training CD called “Domestic Violence & Elder Abuse Investigations.” The CD was put together by the attorney general’s office, the Nevada Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards Training, or POST, and various agencies and groups within the city of Henderson.

The 300 training discs will be used by more than 16,000 law enforcement officials across the state.

Richard Clark, executive director of POST, said the CD will ensure that law enforcement is better prepared to investigate domestic violence cases. It will help protect Nevada’s most vulnerable citizens, he said.

The other program was initiated in 2004 by a state prosecution advisory council to develop a set of “best practices” for prosecutors in domestic violence cases. The group used federal grant funding for the project, which is intended to enhance victim safety and offender accountability.

The program, which is described as the first of its kind in the nation, is being implemented on a pilot basis in several communities, said Brett Kandt, executive director of the Nevada Prosecution Advisory Council.

“Although prosecution is just one component of the coordinated community response to the crime of domestic violence, prosecutors are in a unique position to spearhead efforts to improve the criminal justice system’s handling of domestic violence cases,” Kandt said.

Susan Meuschke, executive director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, said her group also plans new efforts to help victims, including the development and expansion of housing resources in two rural communities and a court monitoring program to better understand the issues facing domestic violence victims.

Highlighting the issue of Domestic Violence Awareness Month are hundreds of small purple flags installed around the attorney general’s office in the capital. The flags are intended to represent the 38,297 victims of domestic violence who used various services offered by different agencies in the state during the 2006 calendar year.

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