Lined in purple with signage, “Safe Exchange” locations now set up in both Ravenswood and Ripley are the result of a personal campaign by Tacita Hartley, who has experienced domestic violence both personally and second-hand working with the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Lined in purple with signage, “Safe Exchange” locations now set up in both Ravenswood and Ripley are the result of a personal campaign by Tacita Hartley, who has experienced domestic violence both personally and second-hand working with the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Lined in purple with signage, “Safe Exchange” locations now set up in both Ravenswood and Ripley are the result of a personal campaign by Tacita Hartley, who has experienced domestic violence both personally and second-hand working with the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

  While Hartley works with domestic violence cases daily in her job, the “Safe Exchange” project she has championed to fruition is a personal endeavor not in conjunction with the Prosecuting Attorneys Office. 

 “I started this project not only because of second-hand knowledge of the domestic violence problem in Jackson County but also because I am a survivor,” Hartley said. “I left my ex-husband because of domestic violence, which sadly does not mean that the domestic violence has stopped. There are still reoccurring issues of which my children and I are victims.”

  During Hartley’s divorce proceedings, an exchange location was specifically ordered in family court. The same as many other families who face similar issues. Generally, th separated parents are told to meet in a public place such as Walmart, McDonalds, or a service station. 

  “There is supposed to be added security in the fact that these places have surveillance cameras and more people around,”explained Hartley. “In my case, we are ordered to meet at the Ripley Municipal lot, in the area of the Police Department.

 “Leading up to a specific exchange, I was particularly nervous to meet and I asked a person for advice who should have been able to help. The reply was generic, I was told, ‘not bring a man, try to bring a female, meet in a public place with cameras, and to record the exchange.’

I was embarrassed and frustrated because this is exactly what I was doing, which had not provided me with a safe exchange. I was doing everything right, the way I was told to do it, and I was exhausted.

 “I had tried many times to get the evidence I needed, but using a mobile phone was not the best answer, because storage quickly fills, batteries quickly drain and background noise is overpowering. The system was set up to fail the victim and I wanted change.

  “I was completely aware and confident that law enforcement will respond after the fact and meeting in front of the Police Department had its own false sense of security, because I sort of had imagined that if something went wrong, someone would come busting out the doors to save the day. Well, it didn’t happen like that. Thankfully, at this exchange I was prepared and recorded enough evidence to provide Cpt. Anderson of the Ripley Police Department and pursue charges. Still I felt that my rights were not being fully protected because the right system was not in place.”

Hartley believes law enforcement, attorneys, and magistrates should be able to suggest a safe way to exchange children, And judges should be able to order a safe exchange.

  “There was a hole in the system, and I wanted to close that gap,” Hartley said. “I started to dig and research. I came across this idea that has been put in to place in other cities across the United States. The idea is to have parking spaces in a city lot, under 24-hour video surveillance, marked with signs and painted off , similar to handicap parking areas. If I could get both cities to agree to allow Safe Exchange locations on their property then I could help provide other victims a safe place to exchange their children.”

  Many of the places frequently used as an exchange location have poor quality cameras, which means we are also relying on the cooperation of a business that is not obligated to simply provide their recordings. Attorneys subpoena them, or law enforcement must travel and wait receive the low quality recording. (Some businesses take up to six weeks to provide a copy of a recording) This generates a substantial amount of work that in many cases fails to obtain justice for the victim. Using a public location also means that a victim is relying on the testimony of a bystander, which can prove to be exhausting for even the most well-intended witness. Especially disheartening is that there are few ‘well intended witnesses.’ Most people ‘don’t want to have anything to do with it’ or they ‘didn’t see the entire incident’.  People are willing to call 911 but generally choose to not be involved with helping  prove  the allegations.

  “I cannot count the times that I would have felt more validated going to law enforcement had I obtained a recording that was of equal quality to that of a seasoned detective, with the best equipment,” Hrtley added.

  “‘Safe Exchange’ locations help eliminate a list of issues for the victim and law enforcement. It had to be possible to acquire the funding needed to provide this to the citizens of Jackson County, and in November 2017 I began rallying support to do just that,” sh explained. “With support from the Family Law Judge Bryan Cromley, Ravenswood Police Chief Lance Morrison and Ripley Police Captain Brad Anderson, both cities granted permission to install the necessary ‘Safe Exchange’ equipment that was purchased with funding allocated by the Jackson County Commission.”

  One location is at the Ripley Police Department in the lower level of the lot and the other is directly beside the Ravenswood Police Department in the lot that the officers park their cruisers.

 “By creating these Safe Exchange locations, there will be knowledge by all parties that they are being recorded, therefore hopefully stopping abuse before it happens. If there is a domestic violence situation it will be effectively recorded—recordings that are easily obtainable by law enforcement.

  Public awareness is essential for Safe Exchange to be effective. I would also like to note that victims can request that ‘Safe Exchange’ locations become their regular exchange location, and the Family Law Judge will utilize them as well. It has also been mentioned that these locations can be put to use for E-Commerce trades.”

 “The Child Safe Exchange Program is geared towards the safety of our children and the reduction of domestic violence,” said Ravenswood Police Chief Lance Morrison. “This idea was sparked in the county by Tacita Hartley. She came forward with the idea and took the necessary steps to make it happen.  I thank Tacita, the Jackson County Commission, and our Mayor and Council for their support in making our community a safer place to live.”