Baltimore County, city to join efforts on domestic violence


A Baltimore woman who has been abused seeks refuge at a city shelter, then panics when her husband tracks her down. Social workers try to send her to a shelter in Baltimore County, but the county balks at helping a city resident, leaving the woman in danger.

It has been a familiar scenario, often with the two jurisdictions' roles reversed, but one that officials say will not be repeated now that the city and county have agreed to cooperate in the battle against domestic violence.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and County Executive Roger B. Hayden, who signed the pact yesterday, said they will share resources and information, coordinate training programs and jointly identify and track domestic violence cases.

"Victims and assailants in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County will get the same message -- that we intend to provide adequate safety for the victims of domestic violence and deal appropriately with their assailants," Mayor Schmoke said.

Mr. Hayden described the agreement as the "first joint venture" between the city and the county under his administration, adding that "it will not be the last."

For Carole J. Alexander, the domestic violence agreement is a welcome start.

Ms. Alexander is director of the House of Ruth, a women's shelter in Baltimore, and she has had her share of logistical problems in trying to coordinate city and county agencies.

"The lines have been drawn in a way that has not been helpful," Ms. Alexander said. "At the police level, at shelters, at the prosecution level -- there has been a reluctance to work cooperatively on all levels."

The agreement reaches many levels of city and county governments. For instance, the police departments will share resources related to domestic violence, including audiovisual materials, computerized record-keeping systems and procedures for case reviews.

The departments will also develop and share a list of the top 50 repeat offenders in each jurisdiction.

Prosecutors in the city and county also will share training materials, policies and intervention strategies. Also, courts and commissioners will exchange information about protective orders.

Representatives from domestic violence programs such as the Family and Children Services of Central Maryland have agreed to accept shelter referrals from the other programs and to develop joint community education and prevention programs.

Baltimore County police reported more than 4,200 cases of spousal assault in 1990. City police could not immediately provide comparable figures, although the mayor did say that Baltimore had 31 murders involving "intimate partners" last year.

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