The Washington Post

Prince George’s launches new 211 call center, investigative unit to reduce domestic violence

Prince George’s County officials have launched a new 211 line that victims of domestic violence can call to get confidential help.

The call center is part of a series of initiatives the county has rolled out in an effort to reduce domestic violence in Prince George’s. The efforts also includes a unit within the county’s police department that will specifically investigate domestic violence cases and calls.

“All of this is to try and prevent domestic violence and stop the silence,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said.

The county launched its domestic violence campaign this week after a committee of government leaders studied the issue, starting in February. The campaign brings the police department, social service agencies, the sheriff’s office and the state’s attorney’s office together to focus on reducing domestic violence.

Baker said one of the biggest challenges in reducing domestic violence is that many women keep quiet about their abuse. Others don’t know where to turn for help, he said.

He said 211 operators will direct callers to the right resources or agencies — such as victims’ advocates, social workers or law enforcement officials — depending on their needs.

Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw said that of the 44 homicides that have occurred in the county this year, nine were related to domestic violence. With a new police unit dedicated to domestic violence cases, the department can better spot women who repeatedly call for service and identify trends.

“We want to prevent situations from escalating to that tragic point,” Magaw said.

The Prince George’s sheriff’s office deals with most of the county’s domestic violence calls, with officers specially trained to handle domestic cases. Sheriff’s deputies responded to about 10,000 domestic violence calls in the past two years, Sheriff Melvin High said.

“I think that’s a win because victims of violence are speaking out,” High said. “They’re asking for help.”

But officials hope that 211 will make it even easier for victims speak up.

Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said the 211 call center isn’t just for victims. Operators are ready to take calls from children, neighbors and even those who are abusers. The aim is prevention, Alsobrooks said.

Of the domestic homicides the county has seen this year, many of the abusers had never been in the criminal justice system before, Alsobrooks said.

“We want those people to call us too so we can get to them before the crime occurs,” Alsobrooks said.

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.

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