"The way we've worked out the process is when the court personnel at Gig Harbor submit a request, they give us a call, and we sit and talk to them as we're looking at it," Roberts said.

Both the kiosk and the advocate's presence may eliminate some fear and hesitancy, Roberts said, because the process is more personal and thorough.

In most domestic violence situations, police advise victims to go to the courthouse to get a protective order.

"They would wander in here, talk to a clerk who would sit them down, give them some paperwork and show them how to fill it out," Roberts said. "They'd fill it out by hand."

The new situation gives the victim someone to help and support them through the process, he continued. "Even pass them along to a community agency that can walk them through the process and provide them other resources, whether they need to find a place to stay or get clothes for their children or whatever the case may be."

Added Uses

Initially the motivation to install the kiosk was the distance between Gig Harbor and the office that could serve a protection order, but Roberts said such a kiosk could be useful anywhere, even in King County, Wash., where 40 to 50 courts grant orders.

"One of the benefits is you've got a battered women's shelter that may be only a few blocks from the courthouse, and security is an issue," he said. "It's an issue actually getting the victim there so they can electronically petition from that secure location."

The next plan, stage II, is to add more kiosks in the county. Roberts called stage I the low-tech version -- just getting it up and running. "When they submit a petition we actually print it out and walk everything into court."

Stage II, it is hoped, will automate the whole process, including notification to the law enforcement agency nearest the victim by using county GIS capabilities. With GIS, officials would locate the law enforcement office nearest the victim's address, and automatically notify those authorities, most likely via e-mail.

"We're looking toward going with cable modems with Internet access to circumvent having to hook up to someone else's network," Roberts said, adding that an ultimate goal is providing local Army bases with kiosks.

"It will take programming time and more throwaway computers, but it's one of the high priorities," Roberts said. "We'll use personnel from our office to train with law enforcement and use what we've budgeted for programming time."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor