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Local Leaders Plan Family Justice Center

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- Springfield Police Chief, Paul Williams, Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson, and Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott each frequent the annual Stop the Violence Conference in Springfield.

Casey Gwinn with the Alliance for Hope International is a first timer to this conference. He also happens to be the keynote speaker. His primary message: The importance of Family Justice Centers.

Family Justice Centers are a type of one-stop-shop for victims of child abuse and domestic violence looking for help. According to Gwinn, Missouri is a bit of an outsider for not having one already.

"Missouri is one of ten states that doesn't have a family justice center," he said Thursday. “We have centers in 40 states and 20 countries.”

It's why the other three community leaders in the room say they're hoping to start a development plan for one as soon as this summer.

"We're working on an initial location because we want to put the money we have into services and not a location,” says Prosecutor Dan Patterson. “But that's going to be part of the details we'll be working out over the next couple months."

As for when exactly that plan will get started, there's no word yet but all three of the local leaders we spoke with say they'd like to get it started soon because domestic violence continues to be one of the greatest hurdles facing Springfield Greene County community.

"It's the number one violent crime category that we face in this community,” says Chief Paul Williams. “Everything from assaults to homicides. So having an impact on that crime will probably impact the community in ways we don't even realize yet."

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott says that problem doesn't stop at the city limits.

"In the county, it's the same,” he says. “If you look at jail statistics, assaults are the number one crime against persons of people being held in jail. The majority of those are domestic violence related."

As for which services the future justice center could house, that's what Gwinn challenged today's crowd to consider, saying the services offered at each individual justice center should be tailored to its communities needs.

It's why he says his team, Alliance for Hope International will be taking polls and listening to focus groups here in the Springfield Greene County area before the development of this center begins.


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