RIPON -- Sometime within the next couple of weeks, an office inside the police station will become a haven for domestic violence victims.
Workers from the South County Crisis Center plan to move in. The office will be their first satellite since opening their Manteca headquarters in 1997.
"A lot of times, the victims outside Manteca won't go the extra step to get to Manteca," said Linda Byrd, executive director of the crisis center. "It might be economic, they might not have money for transportation, and they might not have a car at their disposal. There is not a lot of public transportation, and if we can bring the services to their community, so much the better."
The crisis center offers answers when a victim arrives at a police station or hospital. Workers explain restraining orders and find shelter, food and clothing for victims of both sexes and their children. The center provides parenting classes, and for students expelled from school, it offers anger management, substance abuse and gang-awareness courses.
But though the center serves Ripon, Escalon, French Camp and Lathrop as well as Manteca, the majority of the roughly 1,600 people a year who come through the door are from Manteca. Four of the 50 current victims being served are from Ripon, Byrd said.
Based on conversations with police, she said, she believes there are more victims who might be returning to abusive situations because help is too far.
Ripon police Lt. Ed Ormonde agreed.
"The farther they have to go for that assistance, the less likely it is they are going to go," Ormonde said. "When we have somebody available here in town, whether they are here when an incident occurs or can be here in a short period of time, that's going to be beneficial."
He said the center might result in more victims reporting domestic violence.
The nonprofit center will remain separate from the Police Department and its information will be kept confidential, Byrd said. But she said center staff are required by law to report cases if a victim is in danger.
The Manteca center is open five days a week on about $50,000 a year it receives from grants, donations and fund-raisers. The satellite office will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday. During business hours on other weekdays, Manteca staff will answer calls made to the Ripon office and will come to Ripon for particularly bad situations.
Plans for the Ripon satellite center came together after the Police Department agreed to allow the nonprofit to use extra office space and the Ripon Soroptimists club donated $20,000 to pay for staff for the first year.
First Congregational Church of Ripon donated $5,000 for seed money.
Pastor Judy Edwards said her congregation was looking for a way to tithe a portion of a donation it received, and the center was a good opportunity to serve the community.
Part of the work to come will involve finding shelters in the Ripon area for victims, she said. Now, victims must go to shelters in Manteca, Stockton or even Lodi.
"We would rather keep them in their own community because it is easier for them," Byrd said. "If they have children in school, they can stay in their own schools. It is their own safety zone.
"But sometimes, they want to get outside of the community away from their attacker," she said. "But hopefully, their at- tacker is in jail and a restraining order in place so that their threat of seeing their attacker is diminished."
Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 599-8760.
- The South County Crisis Center helps domestic violence victims. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week at 609 W. Center St., Man- teca, or call 824-0586. Its Web site is www.southcountycrisiscenter.org.
- The center is opening a Ripon office inside the Police Department at 259 N. Wilma Ave. It is expected to open within two weeks.