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Editorial: Domestic Violence in Germantown Deserves Our Attention

August 8, 2015

Twice in 63 days the residents of the Germantown area were shocked to experience horrendous domestic violence in a public place. Murder in public.

   On Monday, June 1, 24-year-old Mariam Shadé Adebayo was shot and killed in the Milestone Target parking lot, allegedly by her former boyfriend, a convicted sex offender, Donald Wayne Bricker, Jr.

   Then last Tuesday, it happened again, only 2,900 feet away from the first shooting. Career criminal Johnnie Perkins shot and killed the woman he’d been living with, 34-year-old Shakina Perkins-Moody while filling up at a Germantown gas station.

   The Germantown Pulse covered a third incident that took place earlier this year, when Montgomery County Police arrested 18-year-old Tre’von James after he attempted to shoot the mother of his infant child and her brother standing in the street on Summersong Lane.

   According to dataMontgomery, the County’s data portal, Montgomery County Police in District Five have responded to 176 domestic violence calls in the Germantown area so far this year. That works out to one domestic violence call every 30 hours. Of those 176 calls, 17 were aggravated assault cases in which a weapon of some kind was involved.

   Since 2013, there have been nine homicides in the Germantown area — one in 2013 and five in 2014, according the MCPD 2014 Annual Report. There have been three homicides in Germantown thus far in 2015, according to dataMontgomery. District Five Commander David Gillespie said all but two of the nine homicides were domestic-related homicides, which family members or the person they were living with at the time were killed.

   Folks shake their heads, asking "What's happening in our town? How can we stop this?" Police remind an unsettled community that none the deaths weren't random. In most cases, victims and suspects knew each other. The implication is that the public at large is not at risk. But after the latest incident, the Chief of Police blasted the criminal justice system for allowing a known violent criminal back into the community.

   “Somewhere along the line the criminal justice system has to recognize when we have an individual that has demonstrated for 20-plus years that he is engaged in violent crime, with gun convictions, arrested with guns — over and over and over again — and yet doesn’t have to face the consequences for the severity of these charges,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger earlier this week at a press conference about the Perkins case.

While it may be true that the general public does not have to fear for their lives as a result of the domestic-related murders, we should fear for society at large. What does it say about our culture, our society, and our community when human life is not valued? 

During his press conference, The Germantown Pulse asked Chief Manger what the department was doing to combat domestic-related homicide. Chief Manger said he was proud of the progressive policies his department had implemented over the years.

   “The Lethality Assessments that my officers do every time they respond to a domestic violence call have gone a long way in preventing domestic violence homicides. In fact, we’ve seen a decline in those homicides over the years,” said Manger.

   The Lethality Assessment Program was created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence in 2005. It is a strategy to prevent domestic violence homicides and serious injuries. It provides an easy and effective method for law enforcement and other community professionals to identify victims of domestic violence who are at the highest risk of being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners, and immediately connect them to the local domestic violence service program.

   In 2013, law enforcement agencies throughout Maryland conducted 12,751 Lethality Assessment Screens and found a high danger 52 percent of the time. In Maryland, law enforcement conducts a Lethality Assessment about 35 times a day, and more than half the time (52 percent) it is determined that there is a high danger of domestic-violence murder taking place.

   Obviously, domestic violence is not just a Germantown or Montgomery County problem. However, recent events in the Germantown area have brought it top-of-mind for many residents. The fact that domestic violence is happening to so many of our local women and children — and yes, to some men — makes it a community health problem that won't heal if we ignore it, if we don't ramp up efforts to help more victims and change the culture.

   According to Laurie Duker, executive director of Court Watch Montgomery, which is a non-profit organization that fights domestic violence by improving the process that abuse victims experience in Montgomery County courts, each domestic-related homicide is supposed to be investigated by a Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.

   However, the website of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative states -- the Montgomery County team “is currently inactive.”

   In Montgomery County, there are a number of agencies that can help victims of domestic violence. The Montgomery County Family Justice Center in Rockville is a comprehensive one-stop center for victims of family violence and their children. The 24-hour crisis line is 240-777-4000. The Betty Ann Krahnke Center, run by the Bethesda-based National Center for Children and Families, is an emergency shelter for families escaping domestic violence. All referrals for the Betty Ann Krahnke Center must come from Montgomery County Crisis Center.

  While doing online research for this editorial — with no fear of being discovered by an abuser — it took two or three hours to get a good idea of what services were available in Montgomery County and how they could be accessed. One can imagine how nervous and scared a victim of domestic violence would be to spend even 15 minutes Googling a way to find help. What’s more disheartening is that there are no emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence in the Upcounty Germantown area. Victims have to go to Rockville. While that is not very far, if don’t have access to a car and live in fear, it might as well be Montana.  

   This is where the Germantown community can help. These agencies, even those funded by the County, can always use more support. If each member of the Germantown community could donate, even a small amount to one of these agencies, it would make a mammoth difference. We must, as a community, find a way to end this nightmare.

   By helping The Betty Ann Krahnke Center or the Family Justice Center and other such agencies through donations of funds and goods, and by acknowledging we have a problem to solve together, we can show the rest of Montgomery County that Germantown is trying to do something to stem the rise of domestic violence. That Germantown is taking action.

   If you want to help with a donation of monies or time, you can find more information on how to do so at the following links. The Family Justice Center Foundation or The Betty Ann Krahnke Center.

   Another thing we can do as citizens of Montgomery County is call for the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team to be reactivated. We need an open and transparent Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team that will look into cases such as those of Shadé Adebayo and Shakina Perkins-Moody and release recommendations so the public can see what needs to change and whether things are changing, and so that officials may somehow  be held accountable when the system fails as badly as it has for these two Germantown residents.

   We must send a strong message to abusers: You will not be tolerated.

   And to victims of domestic violence: We see you. We'll help you. You aren't alone.

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