ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County State’s Attorney and The Rockford Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention held a joint news conference in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“42% of our violent crime in Rockford is domestic violence,” said Mayor Tom McNamara. “And you look at how they’re changing what they do to prosecutors. Those are the results. That’s hope for survivors and that’s justice for our community.”
Mayor McNamara and State’s Attorney J. Hanley led the dialogue touching on goals they have achieved as well as future hopes when dealing with Domestic Violence Cases.
The Winnebago County State’s Attorney highlighted new procedures making grounds for Convictions. Implementing intentional, evidence-based prosecution has led to several positive results. In July 2023 the county saw an 80% conviction rate in Domestic related cases.
“There’s often very much happening beneath the surface that we can’t explain, that we want to explain, that we want to bring to a judge that we want to bring to a jury that we simply can’t or in the past haven’t been able to,” said Alex Ronning the supervising attorney for the county’s Domestic Violence unit.
In August the number jumped to 88%. Specific charges of Domestic Violence related cases like stalking is an example of how the different methods have helped.
In 2020 and 2021 there was just one conviction of stalking in the county. In 2023 there have already been 17 and it is expected to finish more than 20.
“New and creative ways to bring the reality of domestic violence relationships into the courtroom,” Ronning said. “That involves filing motions that lay out a propensity or layout a pattern of abuse in a relationship. Establishing, as Jen(Cacciapaglia) pointed out, that the abuse often continues during the life of the case. During the pendency of the case, the abuse often intensifies.”
“This information in and of itself, our survivors in this community will hear and this will be impactful to them because they are going to hear for the first time, for the first time that the state attorney’s office in Winnebago County is engaging in evidence-based best practices to try to develop tactics that will not require them to come to court as often,” said Jennifer Cacciapaglia, the Executive Director for the Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention.
Much of the focus was on the court proceedings, but ways of helping victims is still at the forefront of discussion.
“In particular at the Family Peace Center for survivors who’ve experienced complex trauma from this sort of violence, we really need a lot of support. And so that’s a constant conversation, and it’s one that we are constantly looking to find additional funding and space to add on to,” said Cacciapaglia.