ASHBY — The Ashby Police Department and the Middlesex district attorney are stepping up to the plate to combat domestic violence and serve its victims in Ashby.

More than 4,900 restraining orders were filed in Middlesex County by victims of domestic violence during 2007. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.

The new initiative between the district attorney’s office and the Ashby Police Department means police officers will be trained to more effectively investigate domestic violence crimes and to support its victims. Police Chief Paul Lundin said these crimes can be difficult to prosecute.

As part of the initiative, officers will use a researched-based model to identify high-risk cases. Not all cases are called in to the police.

“In rural and small towns, you are not going to get neighbors calling. Homes are spread out,” Lundin said. “People have a sense they will not be anonymous and they may be more reluctant to call.”

Lundin said these types of cases can be more difficult to get through the court system. One officer, Fred Alden, will receive special training and serve as a liaison to the district attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit and other domestic violence service agencies.

Unlike a crime such as a theft, in abuse cases there are ongoing relationships between the victim and the abuser, even though they may no longer live in the same house.

Lundin said providing better support and services to these victims is a part of the initiative. The liaison officer will remain in contact with the victims as the case progresses through the court system.

The program with the district attorney’ office is valuable to Ashby. “It helps us out where we have limited resources,” Lundin said. “Training the officers and dispatchers, appointing a lead officer to build the case and follow through the prosecution works for us.”

“We have seen first-hand the numbers of families tragically impacted by domestic violence,” District Attorney Gerry Leone said. “That is why we are doing all that we can to not only better investigate and prosecute those who abuse others, but also to help victims proactively get out of dangerous situations before they escalate.”

New training for officers will include on-site training, a roll-call training video, “risk factor” cards to help identify victims of domestic violence, and dispatcher checklists and trainings to help respond to domestic violence calls.

Lundin said the Police Department will continue to work with local service agencies to better serve victims.

The district attorney’s office will match high-risk domestic violence victims with pro-bono attorneys to represent them at civil hearings for restraining orders. These hearings not only assure the abuser cannot come in contact with the victim, but can also address financial issues like child support, utility payments and health care payments.