Last updated: July 26. 2013 1:15AM - 1441 Views

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Domestic violence cases are among the most difficult for law enforcement and the justice system to handle.

By their very nature, they involve the most personal of relationships among people and are often fraught with extreme passions. And, as the name of such cases makes clear, those passions often escalate into violence or the threat of violence.

All too frequently, the result is that someone is injured, perhaps killed.

In Kanawha County, a new approach is being tried to keep cases from reaching such a serious level, and those involved say they believe it is doing a better job of keeping victims safer.

A pilot program, sparked by two deaths related to domestic violence in the past few years, began last summer in the home county of West Virginia’s capital city.

Previously, the county’s domestic violence cases were handled by 10 magistrates and five family court judges. …

The end result is that people who pose real threats are more likely to end up in jail and not be free to end up in another altercation with the victim. As one judge told the Gazette-Mail, he sleeps better at night because he believes victims or potential victims of domestic violence are safer.

That’s an important result, considering the volume of domestic violence cases in the state. The West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 14,880 domestic violence cases were filed in West Virginia Family Court in 2010 and that about a third of all homicides in the Mountain State are related to domestic violence.

With a toll of that magnitude, it’s laudable that Kanawha County is trying a new strategy. The pilot program still has three more years, but if the early assessment holds up in the near future, other counties as well as the entire state may not want to wait that long to adopt the same approach. Lives often hang in the balance in these cases, and a firmer grasp on them could reduce the number of people who are hurt or killed.

— The Herald-Dispatch

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