The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday the appointment of an officer who will focus on the rising number of domestic violence cases in the county.
Officer Jennifer Naillon has been named the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office Domestic Violence Officer, whose duty it will be to assist victims of domestic violence.
According to Sheriff Ron Seals, the department performed a crime analysis, which showed an increase in domestic violence cases. In response, they developed a 30-day pilot program that began in June to address the needs of domestic violence victims. During that period, the office received 68 calls for service and 71 domestic violence reports, some of which were violations of order of protection. Responding officers earmarked those cases for follow up by Naillon, who contacted each victim to offer support and guidance about the criminal prosecution process, and distribute information about services available from victim advocacy groups such as SafeSpace.
“We have decided to go ahead and place Officer Naillon as a permanent fixture to our department to oversee the aftercare of a domestic call,” said Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals at a press conference. Previously, patrol officers did not always have the opportunity or time to go back and follow up on these cases.
Naillon said they have had a very positive response to the pilot program and victims were grateful someone from the department cared to check on them. She makes sure they have her phone number and that it gives victims a sense of security and empowerment.
“They have somebody here at the Sheriff’s office they can call back if needed,” Naillon said. “That way, they are more likely to reach back out if something happens because they have a specific person that they can call.”
Domestic violence victims are sometimes reluctant to prosecute. They may be unfamiliar with the process and court system, or the perpetrator may be their sole means of support and they don’t have anyone to turn to for help. A number of domestic violence cases the department sees are visitors to the area and victims may not know anyone locally or have means to get back home. Naillon will now be there to help victims through the process and inform them of resources available through organizations such as SafeSpace.
“Advocates who work with victims of domestic violence are not in a position to follow up with these victims, for their safety, so our advocates don’t do that,” said Van Wolfe, executive director of SafeSpace. “That’s why I’m tickled to death we have law enforcement who can do that without endangering their safety. I think that’s a great thing.”
Chief Det. Jeff McCarter said, “In the last year all of our homicides that we’ve worked here in Sevier County have been domestic related homicide.” He said that played a part in the department’s decision to add the domestic violence officer position and that they hope Naillon following up with victims, and ensuring perpetrators are not violating an order of protection, will prevent recurrences of domestic violence and perhaps save lives.
Naillon will also aid in collection of evidence.
“At the time of the assault, sometimes injuries are not very visible,” McCarter added. “A day or two later when Officer Naillon goes back out, she has very good camera equipment, she can go out and document bruising and things that may not have been visible to the initial reporting officer so that helps the attorney general when they go to court.”
“I am pleased that the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Ron Seals have decided to do this,” said District Attorney General James Dunn. “As far as I know, this is the only county in my 4th judicial district of four counties that has an officer assigned to do this task.”
SafeSpace provides help for victims of domestic violence in Sevier, Jefferson and Cocke Counties and has a 24-hour Crisis Line 1-800-244-5968.