ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office will soon have a new tool to prosecute more domestic violence cases.
The tool will come in form of an enhanced criminal response liaison (ECR), a non-lawyer position tasked with reviewing recorded phone calls made by alleged domestic abusers from inside the Winnebago County Jail.
Officials say it is common for those arrested for domestic violence to call their victims from jail with the goal of thwarting their prosecution.
“The beginning phone calls are always the apology,” said Ali Friend, deputy chief of the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Criminal Division. “The ECR will be trained in what to be listening for during these phone calls.”
Friend said after apologizing, abusers strategize to get their cases to go away.
“‘No face, no case,’ is what we hear,” Friend said, referring to the common belief on the streets that criminal proceedings will just stop without a victim’s cooperation.
In many instances, that’s exactly what happens; abusers manipulate their victims into ignoring subpoenas, ducking law enforcement interviews, and ultimately dropping charges.
But, in cases where the ECR finds such manipulation and things get stalled, Friend said her office will file motions to continue the proceedings anyway.
“This will allow us to go forward with or without the victim,” she said.
Friend added that the ECR will be looking for jail calls made during times when defendants are prohibited from contacting victims, such as when an order of protection has been issued, and those that contain threats, harassment, or intimidation.
“If the prosecutor has sufficient grounds to bring additional charges, new charges may be filed,” she said.
Not all domestic violence cases will be reviewed, Friend said, only when it’s suspected that a victim may not cooperate with authorities.
All calls made from inside the Winnebago County Jail are recorded.
The new position was created through a collaboration between the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Family Peace Center. A start date or salary information has not been announced.
If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.