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Baltimore police introduce new waiting rooms designed to make trauma victims feel safe

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Posted at 8:02 AM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 18:29:08-04

The room victims of sex crimes used to be brought to at the Baltimore City Police Department was drab, dimly lit and depressing.  The unwelcoming space didn't help the investigation, and made the interviews feel more like an interrogation rather than a conversation.

Wednesday, a major makeover to the area was unveiled.

"What this new space says to our survivors, I believe, is that you are not in a confrontational place, we believe you, we're here to help you and you're safe," said Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

Both the waiting room and interview room were re-done with calming colors, a variety of textures and comfortable furnishings.  Every inch was considered, and sends a message of hope, encouragement and healing.

"These rooms are meant to not only help in giving control back to the victim from top to bottom with grounding mindfulness,” said Lori Lickstein, the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.  “They are also to help the officers from preventing vicarious trauma."

For years, the department has struggled with the way sex offence investigations are handled.  Despite some attempts at reform, a Department of Justice Report released in August exposed flaws in detective's attitudes towards sex assault victims, and a failure to perform basic police work on the cases.

BPD’s top cop says unveiling these new rooms is step one.

"Before behaviors change, mindsets have to change,” Daiv said.  “And this room, in its own way serves to change mindsets."

The hope is the rooms will put everyone at ease, and that will lead to more cases closed.

"It not only puts the survivor in a mind frame, it puts the Detective and Investigator in a mind frame that is going to help facilitate that victim centered, trauma informed response in the investigation," said Special Investigations Unit Captain Steve Hohman.

"It's common sense that better investigations will lead to higher clearance rates,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.  “You get better investigations when you get access to the best information and the most detailed and accurate information."

The two rooms are not being used yet, they still need some audio and video equipment to be installed.  We’re told they should be up and running in a few weeks.

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