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New program to help prevent domestic violence homicides involving guns

Your Safe Place
Posted at 8:07 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 23:07:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott has launched a new service at Your Safe Place: A Family Justice Center to help survivors of domestic violence reduce their risk of becoming victims of gun violence.

Your Safe Place is a refuge for domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex-trafficking victims.

The center will now have a Gun Violence Response Unit on-site to speak directly with domestic violence victims.

If an attorney or staff member suspects the possibility of gun violence, they’ll file a Gun Violence Restraining Order against the victim’s abuser. Under California’s “red flag” law, GVROs quickly remove firearms from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.

“Here they’re in a safe place, they can have those discussions. We can get that information first-hand and then the police can go and take action," John Hemmerling, Assistant City Attorney of the Criminal and Community Justice Divisions, said.

Diane Doherty, the Executive Director of Your Safe Place, said the program furthers victim's protection by reducing the threat of gun violence.

“We’re already seeing that almost about 10 percent of our cases have some gun involvement,” said Doherty.

Hemmerling said a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.

In San Diego County, 13 people were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2019, and 14 were killed in 2020.

Hemmerling said the early intervention is crucial in preventing a tragedy, all while giving victims even more courage to walk away.

“They [victims] may get that if they’re talking to a police officer after an incident has occurred or maybe in court after they’re already trying to do some other stuff," Hemmerling said.

“It’s a very powerful tool to know that we can take that gun away from the person who is holding a lot of power and control over them, who is manipulating them,” Doherty said.