Christine D'Antonio reporting

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After six months of planning, Friday Pittsburgh City Police unveiled a new program aimed at cutting down on domestic abuse.

It targets people in violent marriages or relationships putting them in contact with someone here locally who can help.

It’s called LAP or the Maryland Lethality Assessment Program and according to the City of Pittsburgh Police Department, it could be a breakthrough in cutting down on domestic related homicides.

Tamara Hawthorne with the Pittsburgh Police Sex Assault Unit says, “This program to me is an extra layer of protection for the victim. It’s another tool that we as police officers can utilize to decrease domestic violence incidents.”

The program’s been in the works for six months, ever since Cit Councilman Reverend Ricky Burgess sponsored legislation to make changes.

The concept is simple. Officers dispatched to intimate partner violence calls will ask the victim a series of questions, like has your partner ever used a weapon against you or threatened you? And do you think they may kill you?

If the trained officer feels the person is at high risk of domestic related homicide or abuse he’ll allow her to use a specifically designated cell phone putting them in immediate contact with a hotline specialist from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh.

Shirl Regan of the Women’s Center says, “We know that there is going to be a lot more individuals coming forward, getting the help that they need and that there’s gonna be a lot more families that are safer in the City of Pittsburgh.”

The program developed in Maryland has cut down on domestic related homicides by 41 percent there.

Here in Pennsylvania, where 50 other cities have put it into action, it’s already had a positive impact.

“What this program would do is potentially take that victim out of the cycle of violence as we know domestic violence will only get worse if it’s not handled,” said Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Eric Kroll. “Potentially if you get a victim out of the way of a violent situation it wouldn’t come to that point.”

It all starts Monday in the City and McKees Rocks, Castle Shannon and Swissvale will also be included. The hope is to have it throughout Allegheny County in the future.

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