Duluth, Minnesota

The Duluth/St. Louis County area is internationally known for its history of coordination and collaboration between criminal justice professionals, victim advocates, and other stakeholders-as a result of a collaborative structure known as the Duluth Model developed by Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. This jurisdiction historically has shown a strong commitment to self-evaluation and problem solving. In the 1990s and early 2000s Duluth/St. Louis County conducted safety audits of law enforcement and probation responses to domestic violence, and implemented recommendations for change to improve victim safety and hold offenders accountable.

In February of 2011, the Duluth/St. Louis County audit team began its work as an Initiative on Witness Intimidation (IWI) pilot site. They undertook investigative activities, identified gaps in witness safety and offender accountability, and made recommendations to address those gaps. After reported their findings, they identified four gaps in witness safety and offender accountability: an increased vulnerability of victims and witnesses at certain points as the case progressed through the system; a lack of communication between justice system professionals; delays in the criminal proceedings; and gaps in safety measures at the courthouse, where victims and witnesses are in proximity to offenders and their allies. These gaps in the justice system jeopardized the ability of that system to keep victims and witnesses safe and to hold offenders accountable.

At the same time that Duluth was working on IWI, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) selected Duluth as one of three demonstration sites to create a Blueprint for Safety. While the Blueprint for Safety incorporates attention to witness intimidation, it does not detail for professionals what they should do to identify, document, and respond to it. For this reason, IWI has given the Duluth/St. Louis County team support to focus on specific solutions to intimidation in the justice system. Following the IWI audit, the team developed an action plan to effect change that they have since been implementing. The major goal of the actions steps was to train professionals (e.g. 911 call takers, law enforcement officers, advocates, prosecutors, judiciary, corrections, and probation, etc.) in educating victims and witnesses on intimidation-what it is, when it happens, and what can be done in response. By developing training materials, practice guides, and public awareness campaigns the team hopes to improve its response to intimidation. Throughout the audit activities and action planning process, the Duluth/St. Louis County team was also able to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones that will support this ongoing effort.

Implementation and final pilot site reports are available upon request.

AEquitas would like to acknowledge the following organizations for their significant contributions to the Duluth IWI project: American Indian Community Housing; Arrowhead Community Corrections; Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs' Duluth City Attorney's Office; Duluth Police Department, Domestic Violence Response Team, Violent Crimes; Hermantown City Attorney's Office; Hermantown Police Department; Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force; Minnesota Judicial Branch, Sixth District, St. Louis County; Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault; Safe Haven; St. Louis County Attorney's Office; St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, Court Security, Jail, 911; St. Luke's Hospital.

Special Initiatives