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DOMESTIC-VIOLENCE PROSECUTIONS RISE

Buffalo police and the Erie County district attorney's office have teamed up for dramatically more arrests and convictions in domestic-violence cases, officials announced Monday.

Felony prosecutions have increased 156 percent this year compared with the same period last year, while felony convictions -- 101 -- more than doubled the 48 for all of last year.

Since Jan. 1, the Sex Offense Squad, which investigates domestic-violence reports, also has doubled to 14 investigators from seven, accounting for much of the increase.

Still, by some estimates, only one in seven incidents is reported, so the problem remains huge, according to Lt. David Mann, who heads the squad.

"That's why we try to maximize what we do (when there is a domestic-violence report) because we may not get another opportunity to intervene," he said.

The Domestic Violence Bureau of the district attorney's office has prosecuted 1,482 cases of domestic violence this year and is on a pace to increase felony convictions by 300 percent, District Attorney Frank Clark said.

Buffalo police make 95 percent of the domestic-violence arrests in the county and, through the first six months of the year, have recorded 2,355 incidents, including 381 felony investigations. Another 54 investigations involve abuse or neglect of children or the elderly.

"We're not proud of those numbers," Mayor Masiello said.

"But because violence often begets violence," prosecuting case now is important to reducing them in the future, he said.

"The Buffalo Police Department continues to lead the fight against domestic violence in Western New York with several innovative programs and new training endeavors," Masiello said.

Lisa Bloch Rodwin, chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau of the district attorney's office, said those convicted of felonies go to jail, while counseling is available for those convicted of lesser offenses.

Clark said the increase in prosecutions obviously results from more arrests. He also credited community organizations for joining a cooperative effort.

"We need to get the message out that domestic violence will not be tolerated," Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina said.

Through "partnerships" with such agencies as Haven House, Crisis Services, Hispanics United of Buffalo, the East Side Domestic Violence Task Force, the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other community-based organizations, "we continue to improve and expand our efforts to combat domestic violence," he said.

The SPCA is involved because abuse of animals and pets often indicates domestic violence, Mann said.

Using the SPCA's computer records and cross-referencing them with police reports of domestic violence "becomes another factor to determine if we should investigate (a situation) more fully," Mann said.

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