CONNECT to end violence wants signs in each town

The director of the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services program, CONNECT to end violence, recently launched an Island-wide initiative to place a street sign in every town that declares the town is a “domestic violence free zone.”

Tisbury was the first town to sign on in response to a letter CONNECT program director Christina Costello sent to all Island boards of selectmen. At a meeting on March 5, Tisbury selectmen approved CONNECT’s request but not without some questions about the wisdom of spending money on signs as opposed to programs.

Over the past few weeks, selectmen from the other five Island towns also agreed to the signs, Ms. Costello told The Times in a recent email.

“This sign, in itself, will not end or necessarily prevent domestic violence, but certainly it will make a statement that our community takes domestic violence seriously and that the laws surrounding domestic violence are enforced,” Ms. Costello wrote to the selectmen on February 6. She said CONNECT would provide funding for the signs as the sponsor.

In addition to promoting awareness about domestic abuse, Ms. Costello said the street signs would also serve as a reminder to victims and survivors of domestic abuse that they are not alone and that support and help is available in the community.

Her written appeal was accompanied by a letter signed by the six Island police chiefs and State Police Sergeant Joseph Pimental, endorsing the anti-domestic abuse initiative.

“Our individual departments recognize that this proposed proclamation will enhance and strengthen our community efforts in combating domestic violence against our citizens,” the letter said.

Money well spent

During the Tisbury selectmen’s discussion on March 5, selectman Jeff Kristal asked what the signs would accomplish.

“I would rather see the money that’s used in creating the six signs to be put into some new police training,” he said.

Selectman chairman Tristan Israel suggested that Mr. Kristal support a motion for the selectmen to approve the signs first, and then they would plan to schedule a discussion about domestic violence training as a separate issue on a future agenda.

Mr. Kristal agreed. “I would be happy to vote yes to this, and I think by just bringing this up and talking about it, it’s creating an awareness,” he said.

After approving Ms. Costello’s request, the selectmen said they planned to write her with a request for additional information about the sign’s design and placement. Mr. Israel also suggested they ask Police Chief Dan Hanavan to provide a report soon about what domestic violence training his department currently receives, and whether additional training might be needed.

Asked about the cost of the signs in a recent phone conversation with The Times, Ms. Costello said she did not have a dollar amount because the total would be determined later, once she finds how many signs the Island towns want. CONNECT funds are available for the signs she said.

Domestic violence free zones have been already declared in several Massachusetts cities, such as Cambridge, Beverly, and Gloucester. Ms. Costello told The Times she came up with a draft design of a sign for Martha’s Vineyard’s towns, which is similar in message to those used elsewhere but unique to the Island.