Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Butler center a 'safe haven'

Estranged couples have police buffer

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        MIDDLETOWN — Four nights a week, an empty conference room at Middletown police headquarters becomes a safe haven for troubled couples.

        Couples who are divorced, separated or in the midst of domestic-violence court proceedings come to the “Safe Center,” which is staffed by Middletown police officers on overtime, to exchange property or bring children for visitation.

        “People who are divorced or arrested for domestic violence still have ties to one another, so we wanted to have a safe environment for (those exchanges),” said Sgt. Rodney Hale, the center's coordinator. “Anybody can just come to the police department for that extra safety.”

        However, most of the dozen or so couples who come through the center each month are following orders of Municipal Judge Mark Wall or one of the Butler County Domestic Relations Court judges.

        The center has been in operation about a year, thanks to a federal grant, said Bruce Fassler, city prosecutor. About 65 percent of a $30,000 grant pays for officers to staff it; the center has enough funds to remain in operation at least through Sept. 30, 2001, he said.

The center is staffed from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at other times by appointment.
For more information, contact Bruce Fassler at 425-7990.
        Mr. Fassler said he would like to invite courts in neighboring communities to take advantage of the center. He said he thinks the center has helped reduce confrontations at people's homes.

        “Those who have used it are very appreciative of it,” Sgt. Hale said. “It's neutral territory for them.”

        Often, just being away from their normal surroundings can defuse tension between troubled couples, Sgt. Hale said. Also, on occasions where one parent fails to bring the children as required by court order, police can document the problem.


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