$100,000 grant to fund new deputy prosecutor

GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office has received a $100,000 matching grant to hire a deputy prosecutor to specialize in crimes against women, but the county must put up $25,000 in matching funds in order to utilize it.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute award, titled the STOP Violence Against Women grant, looks to improve local response to violent crimes against women.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton plans to ask the Hancock County Council for the matching funds at the council’s weekly budget meeting Wednesday. Provided the council agrees to the request, the grant money will be turned over July 1. Eaton said he would like to fill the position as quickly as possible, and council members reached Friday said they look forward to hearing more about the opportunity.

When he took office this year, he began exploring ways to correct what he saw as a gap in pursuing justice in crimes against women, Eaton said. He applied for the criminal justice institute grant in the spring with the hope of bringing in additional resources to handle those types of cases.

“We’re always exploring ways to improve the criminal justice system in Hancock County,” Eaton said. “This will help us have effective protocols with law enforcement so that these cases are handled in the same way and effectively prosecute them when we can.”

Bringing more attention to violent crimes against women is worthwhile, said Bill Bolander, the county council’s president.

The grant will pay for the deputy prosecutor’s $65,000 salary and some job benefits through June 30, 2016. There is an opportunity for annual renewal, but Bolander worried what would happen if the funding fell through.

The county council will now have to consider where its contribution to the grant would come from and how best to move forward.

“If you spend $20,000 of taxpayer money and get ($80,000) back, that’s definitely something we need to consider,” council member Jim Shelby said.

This additional deputy prosecutor will focus on cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking of women, Eaton said, allowing for a primary contact for law enforcement regarding crimes that involve female victims.

Eaton said his office will look for a lawyer with experience and passion for these difficult and often sensitive cases.

Katie Molinder, the prosecutor’s victim assistance coordinator, said the new deputy will work closely with her to provide a more victim-centered approach to prosecution.

Molinder’s grant-funded position was created this year. She helps victims of criminal cases navigate the legal system and connect them with any nonprofit agencies that can assist them further.

Together, the two positions would allow for improved investigations and advocacy for women, Eaton said.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.