Guilford agencies move woman to ‘safe house’

Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The officer responding to a report of a loud argument at a condominium last month sensed there was something unusual about the situation.

After speaking to the couple whose arguing had prompted a neighbor to call police, the officer felt additional intervention was necessary, Police Chief Thomas Terribile said. He called in a female officer to speak to the wife, who, like her husband, is originally from India.

Eventually, the woman told the officer she was being held in the house, alleging that her husband beat her if she ate more than water and a piece of fruit while he was at work during the day. She was not given any money, and allegedly was not allowed to leave the house while her husband was at work.

The man was charged with second-degree strangulation, second-degree threatening, second-degree breach of peace and third-degree criminal mischief, and also faces a charge of intentional cruelty to persons, according to police and court records. Because the New Haven Register does not identify victims of domestic violence, the couple’s names are being withheld.

Along with the town’s Youth and Family Services department, police officials helped the woman enter a safe house elsewhere in the state. Youth and Family Services and the Police Department recently began a program aimed at combating domestic violence in town.

“We used just about every organization we could find in the state to, No. 1, get the woman out of the house, get her some money and get her protected from this guy,” Terribile said. “I think the officers saved this woman’s life probably by getting her relocated and out of that environment.”

With the bad economy, Terribile said he is worried that programs such as the domestic violence partnership could suffer if voters reject the town’s proposed budget April 21 and the Board of Finance cuts funding. Terribile said the proposed budget maintains the Police Department’s force at 39 officers, but reduced funding would mean the department would have to trim personnel.

Lyne Landry, director of Youth and Family Services, said the new domestic violence program with the Police Department has been under way for about three weeks and has already assisted three families, including the incident last month. Further cuts to her budget would also mean a reduction in personnel, Landry said.

“We’ve already cut everything that we can from our budgets before we even presented them,” she said. “If people lose jobs, then we lose very valuable programs like this domestic violence program.”

The two departments have worked together on domestic violence issues in the past, Landry said, but the program extends that collaboration. When the police receive domestic violence calls, Youth and Family Services also responds, and the department has a social worker on staff who is specially trained to handle domestic violence.

“That comes in very handy because she knows all the connections in the state,” Landry said. “The police don’t necessarily know all of those connections, so they’ll deal with the legal aspect of it and we’ll deal with the social work aspect.”

Terribile said staff reductions could make it more difficult for officers to perform tasks such as checking on families that have had domestic disturbances.

“If we don’t have enough officers to be able to take the time to spend investigating these cases, this (incident last month) might have been one that just slipped through the cracks,” he said. “We got a domestic and we get there and the woman’s crying and the guy’s upset and you go, ‘There’s no crime here,’ and you just walk through the door.”

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