New alert system safeguards victims

BY GUEST COLUMN | MAY 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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A new statewide alert system that notifies victims when authorities have served a protective order is now fully operational, Attorney General Tom Miller has announced.

The system, called the Iowa Protective Order Notification for Domestic Abuse Program, provides automatic nearly real-time, around the clock notifications via telephone or email to registered victims upon service and prior to expiration of protective or "no-contact" orders.

These protective orders help safeguard victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, and stalking who are petitioners on no-contact orders.

Until now, victims have had no immediate or uniform way of being notified when authorities formally serve notice of a protective order. The system also provides ongoing access and notifications about protective orders, their status, and upcoming event reminders.

"We know that victims are rightly worried about their safety while they await word that a county sheriff's office has formally served notice of a protective order," Miller said. "The system gives victims faster and easier access to information that they should have. We hope this system will offer at least a little more peace of mind and serve as an additional tool victims may use to keep themselves safe." 

The alert system accesses court-management and law-enforcement database systems and provides immediate access to crime victims and other interested parties who register with the service.

Victims can inquire whether an order has been served as well as the date and time of service. They can also register to be notified immediately of a change in the protective order's status or events, such as pending expirations and renewal dates.

Currently, victims must request notifications from the appropriate county sheriff's office, and many victims resort to repeatedly calling to receive updated information. The alert system will take the calling burden off of victims seeking real-time information and will also reduce protective-order status inquiries to sheriff's offices.

"Most importantly, this will provide a real benefit to victims," Miller said. "But it will also aid victim advocates who are helping victims with their safety plans. It will help sheriff's offices as well, which have fielded many calls from people looking for updates on protective orders." 

Victims who are petitioners in a protective order may register with the system to receive phone and email notifications. 

When a notification is triggered, the alert system automatically calls the number or numbers the victim has provided for up to 24 hours, until the victim enters a personal identification number to verify receiving the call. Because of safety concerns, a call that is answered by voice mail or an answering machine will result in a message that does not state who is calling or provide information about the protective order. The alert-system notifications are confidential, and those who are subject to a protective order will not know a victim is receiving such updates.

The system is provided by the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, in partnership with the Iowa Criminal Justice Information Sharing Advisory Committee and Appriss Inc. of Louisville, Ky. The program is supported by a grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and it was awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Geoff Greenwood
Communications Director
Office of Iowa Attorney General

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