Grant funding dries up for Craig domestic violence investigator position | CraigDailyPress.com

Grant funding dries up for Craig domestic violence investigator position

CRAIG — Though domestic violence continues to plague residents of Craig and Moffat County, the resources available to combat the problem are shrinking.

Advocates Crisis Support Services learned this month that a federal grant which funded a dedicated police detective for domestic violence and sexual assault incidents was not renewed.

The position was vacated in August by Detective Travis Young, who logged 16 years with the Craig Police Department. The 3-year grant had been awarded to Advocates three times for nearly nine years.

"It's a vital position for the community and for the safety of men, women and children in this community," Advocates Executive Director Chuck Grobe told Craig City Council in August as he awaited word of the renewal decision.

For example, he explained, it was Young's investigative work this spring that resulted in child sexual exploitation charges being brought against Moffat County High School teacher and baseball coach Justin Folley in August.

"I can almost guarantee that if this position wouldn't have been here six months ago … we wouldn't have found out about it," Grobe said.

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Craig City Council initially directed the position to be cut from the police department budget in June after learning Young would be leaving, however, because the investigator's salary and benefits were fully grant-funded via Advocates, it created no actual cost savings for the city, Grobe explained.

Craig Police Department is attempting to keep up with the steady stream of domestic violence and sexual assault calls, but is now not able to give as much time and attention to misdemeanor cases.

"It's a huge blow, as far as victim's services," said Interim Commander Bill Leonard. "Just having that voice for victims … 90 percent of (Young's) time was spent on domestic violence and sex assault cases, so it's a huge loss for our community."

The police department is now operating with four fewer staff than it had at the beginning of August, after the departure of the police chief, two investigators and a patrol officer. Detective Norm Rimmer left his school resource officer position to become the department's sole full-time investigator.

The changes in staffing mean patrol officers are now responsible for following up on more minor cases with what little time they have available between calls.

"Patrol just has to do what they can with each case that comes in … but right now, unless it's a major case, like a homicide or very serious bodily injury assault, I can't put an investigator on that to follow up," Leonard said.

For victims, it means they're not receiving as much support to help them break or leave the cycle of violence, and Grobe worries that suspects won't be prosecuted as thoroughly.

"We're putting the perpetrators back on the street, because we miss a piece of evidence or don't follow all the way through," he told council in August.

There's still hope that Advocates could again win the grant — which is awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women housed under the U.S. Department of Justice. Grobe is working to rebuild the organization's reputation and funding sources after years of instability following a case of embezzlement several years ago.

Despite Young's departure and the loss of the position, Investigator Doug Winters, with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, is confident that law enforcement will ensure no case slips through the cracks.

"We can't let the loss of this position have any negative impact on how those cases get handled," Winters said.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.