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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Police have new tool to prevent domestic violence-related homicides


The Fairfax County Police Department is using a new screening tool to identify domestic violence victims most risk at of further harm and get them immediate help. Det. Carolyn Kinney described the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) at the Oct. 6 meeting of the Mason Police District Citizen Advisory Committee.

The goal is to prevent domestic violence homicides. That’s critical, Kinney said, because about half the homicides in Fairfax County are domestic related.

“We’re taking a hard-line approach on offenders,” said Capt. A.P. Hill, interim commander of the Mason Police District, stressing the importance of cracking down on domestic violence.

LAP calls for police officers to use a one-page checklist when called to investigate a domestic violence incident to determine whether the victim is in imminent danger.

Victims who answer “yes” to any of these three questions are automatically referred to the LAP hotline: Has he/she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon? Has he/she threatened to kill you or your children? Do you think he/she might try to kill you?

If the victim says “no” to all those questions, the officer asks another series of questions, such as: Does he/she have a gun? Has he/she tried to choke you? Does he/she control your daily activities? A victim who answers yes on at least four of the additional questions is referred to the LAP line.

Domestic abuse victims referred to the LAP line are put in touch with an advocate who can refer them to a counselor and help them get into a shelter immediately.

According to Kinney, the presence of a gun makes it five time more likely that domestic violence will turn into murder. “Even if we save one victim, it’s worth it,” she said.

Preliminary results for July and August show that 33 percent of victims who’ve been through the LAP screening said “yes” when asked whether the abuser has a gun or can get one easily.

Officers also try to determine whether the victim has previously left the relationship. It usually takes seven to 10 tries before a victim leaves for good, Kinney said, and once they do leave, the abuser becomes much more unpredictable and dangerous.

The LAP helps ensure victims will get help. Otherwise victims often change their minds the next day; they might not want to send the breadwinner to jail, for example. If the officer helps victims make an appointment with a counselor on the spot while they’re in the midst of a trauma, they are more likely to show up, Kinney said.

During the first two months the LAP was implemented (July and August), the checklist was used 226 times countywide, Kinney said, and a call was made to the LAP line 117 times in cases where the victim was considered in “high danger.” The Mason Police District had 20 calls to the LAP line, the second highest after the Mt. Vernon District, which had 24.

Recent crimes in the Mason Police District include nighttime burglaries at restaurants in Seven Corners and a dry cleaners on Little River Turnpike in Annandale and a robbery mid-day on Oct. 6 at a 7-Eleven on N. Beauregard Street in Lincolnia, Lt. Anthony Matos said at the Citizen Advisory Committee meeting.

According to the police blotter, a man walked into the 7-Eleven, displayed a gun, and demanded money. The victim handed over cash, and the suspect fled on foot. No one was hurt, The suspect was described as a black male, about 35 years of age, 6 feet tall, wearing all black clothing.

Cash and credit cards were stolen from gym lockers at a Gold’s Gym and Sport & Health by someone who hid a bolt cutter in a gym bag, Matos said. Police are investigating graffiti in Lincolnia Park where someone painted “AR13” on benches.

The elderly man with dementia who had been reported missing last week has been found and is safe at home, but it turns out he was never really “lost,” said Hill. The man had been taken to Alexandria Hospital the day before after suffering a seizure but hospital officials didn’t inform the family because he didn’t have an ID and doesn’t speak English.

Meanwhile, his family had reported him missing, and the police had 30 to 40 officers combing the area along with bloodhounds and helicopter surveillance. The police had checked the hospitals but didn’t discover the mistake until an off-duty firefighter involved in the search happened to mention that a “John Doe” had been transported to a hospital.  


  1. LAP is good news. Hopefully we can get guns out of the hands of violent people and keep domestic violence victims safe, or at least safer.

  2. I have had the pleasure of meeting Det. Kinney and will say that she is a true asset to the FCPD. She fights hard for the victims of domestic violence.