In 2016, the Harrisonburg Police Department was selected as part of a competitive application process to participate in the Virginia Services, Training, Officers, Prosecution grant program. This provided HPD with a three-year grant that created a full-time detective position focusing on crimes against women. The grant has recently been renewed for the 2019-21 period in response to the decrease of domestic violence in the city.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act as a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The VAWA includes the STOP grant program, which was created to increase the apprehension, prosecution and adjudication of those who commit violent crimes against women. The program is open to local units of government, state agencies and nonprofit/non-governmental victim services agencies.
Criminal Investigations Division Commander Rod Pollard has 25 years of law enforcement experience and currently oversees the daily operations of the Major Crimes Unit at HPD. According to Pollard, the department chose to use the grant to fund the detective position because of the community’s need for this resource as well as its cost effectiveness.
“Our department has a specific resource for investigating violent crimes against women that provides a system of accountability and consistency when dealing with very sensitive situations,” Pollard said in an email. “I believe that having a detective assigned to the oversight of growing trends and harms caused by domestic violence is a much needed component of the police department.”
The detective position funded by this grant is currently filled by Aaron Dove, who’s served HPD for eight years in various positions such as patrol officer, school resource officer and officer on the bike unit. He began the detective position in June 2017 and has since worked with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
“One of the main goals for any law enforcement office is to reduce domestic violence in particular,” Dove said. “My job is to reach out to victims or survivors and offer them any services that they need.”
According to the National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, one in four women in the U.S. experiences severe intimate partner violence and/or stalking. JMU students aren’t protected from this, and with roughly 70 percent of the population living off campus at JMU according to the U.S. News College Compass, these students fall into Dove’s jurisdiction.
Dove works closely with First Step, a nonprofit community-based organization that provides services to address the issue of domestic violence. First Step Community Outreach Coordinator Manuela Vazquez educates local leaders and organizations about domestic violence and organizes awareness events for the community.
“With V-STOP, we are able to serve a lot more people, as well as work with them for longer periods of time,” Vazquez said. “Detective Aaron Dove is with them from the beginning until the end of the process, and we’ll check in with them throughout. The V-STOP grant is very useful and effective in making sure that the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents are able to receive the services necessary.”
Other resources in the area include a Batterers Intervention Program that aids in the elimination of domestic violence by offering a means for batterers to examine their behavior, as well as Blue Ridge Legal Services, which can provide services to victims at no cost if necessary. Additionally, HPD has an on-call detective 24/7. While Dove sometimes has to work outside of when he’s scheduled, he doesn’t believe it’s an issue because of the help he’s able to provide Harrisonburg residents.
“I became a cop to help people, and most of the time, we are seeing people at a low point in their life,” Dove said. “If I can be there to help solve the situation or bring a resource to the victim that helps them through the bad times, that’s why I am here.”
Contact Kamryn Koch at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.