The videoconference is being put to use across Allegheny County, Pa., to help victims of domestic violence, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Local shelters and crisis centers have teamed up with the district attorney’s office to provide round-the-clock electronic access to emergency protection-from-abuse orders, known as PFAs. A PFA shields an abused person from current or former partners, spouses, parents, children, siblings, or cohabitants. The order makes contact or harassment on the part of the accused a misdemeanor criminal offense.
After business hours, victims must seek PFAs at the county’s Night Court in Downtown Pittsburgh. Now, three videoconference sites have been established, all with 24-hour access.
“Essentially, there’s a television and it’s pretty much a Web cam, which is directly connected to the Night Court. [The judges] can see you and you can see them [and] the documentation is completed by fax,” said William Barrett of the Ross police department. “The biggest advantage for the videoconferencing technology is that it does give the victim a better sense of safety–people tend to not be comfortable moving outside of their areas,” said Marc Booker, a legal adviser for Crisis Center North, a domestic violence counseling facility.