The Callaway County Sheriff’s Office is starting off the new year with some good news.

“We’ve received tentative (approval) from the Department of Public Safety that our 2018 Violence Against Women Act grant will be awarded,” Sheriff Clay Chism said.

Since 2011, the federal VAWA grant has provided 75 percent of the funding for Callaway County’s domestic violence investigator. The investigator aids the sheriff’s office, Fulton Police Department and Holts Summit Police Department.

For the current two-year funding period of 2018-19, Chism requested enough funds for a second domestic violence investigator — and it looks like those funds will be awarded. Chism will receive final confirmation in the near future, he said. He plans on hiring the second investigator from within the sheriff’s office after receiving that confirmation.

“(The department) requested revisions to the application, which were completed and submitted (last) week,” he said.

The revisions were minor, he said, adding the application process is complex and requests for revisions are common.

The revisions didn’t affect the amount of money requested, which was $161,993.09. That, plus the 25 percent matching amount provided by the county and two cities, will cover the total $215,990.79 cost for two years with two investigators.

“What I always tell people is that grants are taxpayer dollars coming back home,” Chism said.

In October, Callaway County Commissioners agreed the county will cover the 25 percent matching amount for the second investigator, rather than sharing that cost with the cities.

Law enforcement officials said they were pleased about receiving the grant.

“It’s like adding another officer to my department as well,” Fulton Chief Steve Myers said. “It’s a great program.”

Furthermore, it’s a program with results.

In 2016, the sheriff’s office investigated an average of 1.4 domestic disturbance cases per day. By the end of 2016, the Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney filed 137 felony domestic charges and 103 misdemeanor domestic charges.

Chism attributed the high rate of charges being filed to the VAWA program.

“That’s because of the investigations being done correctly,” he said.

The workload is too great for a single investigator, he and the other law enforcement officials agreed.

That load has grown recently, because legislative changes mean some domestic violence-related crimes formerly classified as misdemeanors are now felonies. Felonies involve more time in court and thus more work per case for the domestic violence investigator. In addition to collecting evidence, the investigator helps victims prepare to testify, among other things.

By Helen Wilbers | Fulton Sun