We are joining our partner, Superion, in Nashville, TN this month to host a screening of our film preview and to discuss the ways data can inform the criminal justice ecosystem surrounding the intimate partner violence challenge. If you’re a Superion customer going to SUGA 2017, we look forward to seeing you there. Our film preview will be in Hermitage C at 2:15pm on June 20. We will feature our film team, as well as host a conversation with Chief Ken Shultz of the High Point Police and Shay Harger, victim services director at Family Services of the Piedmont.
Big Mountain Data is kicking off its U.S. speaking tour next week in Austin, TX. If you’ve been following along with us, you know we launched the company in Austin.
It’s our pleasure to return to town to tell our story and show a preview of our film about High Point, NC. We are also pleased to be presenting at the offices of our original advisor, Erik Huddleston. It was Erik, now CEO of TrendKite, who casually mentioned I should focus on offenders, rather than victims. He set in motion all our future plans with that simple, important redirect.
If you’re in the Austin area, or you know someone who’d be interested in our work, please sign up to attend our Lunch & Learn at the TrendKite offices. You’ll get free food and a lot to think about.
When: March 24, 2017, 12pm – 1pm
Where: TrendKite Office, 800 Brazos St #340, Austin, TX 78701
Law enforcement is on the front lines of domestic violence. Before we can implement policies and procedures to hold offenders accountable, we need to get an accurate portrayal of what is happening behind closed doors in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.
Domestic violence rears its ugly head every day where at least three people are murdered at the hands of someone they know intimately. On average, across the U.S., domestic violence homicides constitute at least a third of all homicides every year. Moreover, it’s one of the most predictable homicides law enforcement must confront on an annual basis. Officers new to the force start to see the predictable patterns emerge soon after they begin their careers. It’s for this reason, Big Mountain Data works with law enforcement to demonstrate how the data they have already in their RMS and CAD systems can reveal answers today.
Our longtime partner, SunGard Public Sector, invited us to orchestrate a panel at this year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference to discuss how data analysis played a major role in the highly successful High Point Model, now recognized by the DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women.
The workshop will be moderated by V.P. Kevin Lafeber, of SunGard Public Sector. Participating on the panel will be retired Chief Marty Sumner, who led the domestic violence initiative for High Point for the past 7 years, as well as the crime analysis team from High Point and SunGard PS that had to modify the RMS in order to effectively implement the ground-breaking tracking system. Chief Ken Shultz will talk about future improvements and enhancements to the OFDVI strategy.
The IACP conference will be held October 15-18 in San Diego, CA. This session will fill up early, so be sure to reserve your spot.
In January of 2015, I was invited at the request of the High Point Police Department, to learn about the agency’s incredible work on domestic violence. It was a full two-day workshop and law enforcement agencies from around the country attended. Also present were representatives from The Battered Women’s Justice Project, the Department of Justice, John Jay College, and The Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR).
Sandra Tibbetts Murphy, BWJP
Before I got to the meeting, I met a woman in line at the car rental counter. We exchanged jokes and pleasantries about the inefficiency (understatement) of the car-renting process. When I got to the HPPD workshop, I spotted this same woman in our session! That woman was Sandra Tibbetts Murphy. She asked tough questions in our workshop, and I made a mental note to be sure to connect with her after the two-day training class was over.
Sandi is a world-class attorney who’s written extensively on scholarly and legislative aspects of domestic violence law. Many times, I’ve reached out to her over this past year and asked her to clarify aspects of the law I didn’t fully comprehend. She has always been patient and kind to give me her best insights on her interpretation of the law or the issue I was addressing.
Today, I’m proud to announce Sandi is joining our esteemed Board of Advisors. She will now be able to engage with our extended team on our enterprise social network, and help guide and inform our understanding of the law.
Retired Chief Marty Sumner, HPPD
The second superstar joining our board is someone I’ve come to know and admire since our very inception. In fact, it was his words spoken on national television in September 2014, that compelled me to jump out of my seat and demand to know more. At the height of the Ray Rice saga, ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos ran an investigative segment on domestic violence. I will never forget the words I heard that day:
“In the five years before we began this, we had 17 domestic-related violence homicides. In the five years since, we’ve only had one.” – Chief Marty Sumner, September 2014.
Chief Sumner retired from his 31-year in law enforcement last May. He has an unparalleled understanding of crime data, and especially domestic violence data. For the past 7 years, he led the initiative to apply focused deterrence to High Point’s domestic violence problem that was once over a third of the city’s homicides. What has come to be known as the High Point Model has now been recognized by the DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women, resulting in a $1.6M contract to the National Network for Safe Communities for replication and further evaluation. The High Point story is the subject of our documentary. It was Chief Sumner who led the effort to perform a thorough analysis of the city’s domestic violence data, make necessary modifications to the law enforcement software, and implement a system of reporting and alerts that established the baseline that fueled the High Point Model’s success.
The addition of these two strong advocates for change have added a new layer of credibility and strength to our mission.
Readers of this blog should know we’ve been working on a film since our inception. The story, which we have been calling, Turning Point, is a documentary about a city in North Carolina that got serious about its domestic violence problem. With documentaries, the power of the story sometimes reveals itself the further you get into the process. This is exactly what happened with our film team. At some point last year, we all came to the same conclusion: This story is bigger than us. We knew we had a tiger by the tail that deserved a mass audience and higher production values.
Today, after a few months of deliberation and putting the pieces together, we’re announcing we’re partnering with a world class documentary filmmaker to produce the High Point story. We’re starting over to create a feature film with an ambitious budget and with professionals who are expert filmmakers and storytellers. The amazing news is, we will continue to work on this project creatively. Our two directors will be filming and editing the story. My role will be to continue to advise on the story, and pitch in on fund-raising.
Our partner is The Documentary Group. The “Doc Group,” as its known in the film industry, is one of the leading documentary filmmakers in the world. The company was founded in 2006 by core members of PJ Productions following the death of legendary broadcaster Peter Jennings. The producers and directors were the team behind Jennings’ documentaries at ABC News. We had our first meeting with the doc group in November, and decided to move forward together to tell this incredible story. This week, the film team is back in High Point kicking off the first of many on-location shoots.
Our producer on the film, Tom Yellin, was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Cartel Land. Cartel Land is a feature documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. It has since won a series of high profile industry recognition awards and accolades including the 2015 George Polk Award for Documentary Film. Next Sunday, February 28, we hope you’ll tune in to the Oscars and wish Tom well.
The High Point story has the potential to make a difference in the field of domestic violence unlike nothing else we could have imagined when we started thinking about fresh, new ways to look at this age-old social problem that results in injuries, broken families, and deaths every day. We hope you share in our excitement and anticipation for the completion of this game-changing story.
Among the mountains of programs devoted to addressing the plague of domestic violence, the police initiative in High Point, N.C., stands out for it bold approach to holding offenders accountable. Big Mountain Data will showcase the High Point Model in a documentary debuting this fall. “Turning Point” will tell the groundbreaking story of the program’s success so far. In three years, the city has nearly eliminated domestic violence homicides and decreased repeat offender recidivism.
The story, filmed on location in North Carolina and New York City, features in-depth interviews with the key players who came together to create the High Point Model – an innovative program targeting the root of the problem: the offenders.
High Point began developing the program after domestic violence reached record-breaking highs in calls for service in 2008. After doing research, police detectives discovered that the majority of domestic offenders were also committing violent crimes on the street. Officers began tracking down offenders one by one, to deliver a stern warning: “We know who you are. If you beat your girlfriend again, we’ll lock you up for a long time. And by the way, she didn’t ask us to do this.”
Of the 1,142 offenders who received a deterrence message since the rollout in 2009, only 14 percent have reoffended. Last year, domestic calls for service in High Point dropped by 30 percent. Injuries to women have dropped dramatically, and domestic homicides have nearly stopped. The initiative is now being piloted in four cities around the country, with many more interested.
With film production underway, we’re sharing some highlights from interviews. First, we’ll set the scene in High Point. Future posts will describe the role of the community and specific elements of the High Point Model.
High Point is a city of about 107,000 people; its 50.6 square miles touch four counties. The city’s claim to fame is its history as the “Furniture Capital of the World.” Twice a year, international visitors flood the city for weeklong furniture and finishing markets.
Total violent crime in High Point decreased 72 percent from 1994 to 2007, according to the police department. Murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault all declined since 1997, when the police department partnered with High Point Community Against Violence (HPCAV) and focused on crime deterrence initiatives. Still, In 2012-2013, domestic violence remained the top reason for citizen calls to the police.
Jim Summey, executive director of HPCAV, told our film crew that crack cocaine began taking its toll on city communities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The city saw an increase in prostitution, robberies, gun use, and murder. In response to rising crime and growing frustration, High Point’s then-Police Chief Louis Quijas in 1997 invited the community to dialogue with law enforcement.
“They (the police) were not uncaring; they were just as baffled with how to deal with this as anyone else,” Summey said. The police share “where their concerns all are, where they have knowledge of crime. We’re sharing what we know, what we see,” he said.
The dialogue led to the creation of HPCAV, and the model for holding offenders accountable grew out of that partnership. Through direct confrontation and interaction with repeat offenders, the city saw a drop in crime and a decline in crimes by repeat offenders. But the police department continued to receive high numbers of domestic violence calls. That, Summey said, was the “big elephant in the room.” In 2008, the community worked together to apply focused deterrence strategies in an effort to reduce the rate of repeat offender recidivism.
Domestic violence is an “across the board sickness,” Summey said. “We’ve actually had people of all socioeconomic situations and we’ve told them all it’s wrong. And that’s the power of it. It’s not done to pick on anybody; it’s done because it’s wrong. … It really hurts so many people. And it destroys lives.”
Agencies addressing domestic violence in Henderson County, North Carolina, have made a smart move. The community recently formed the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative, bringing together organizations and public servants working to end family violence.
Now advocates, victim service providers, law enforcement and legal professionals share information and discuss strategies to address the problem. Offenders “will be put on notice, and violators will be punished in a collective effort to save victims and deter abuse,” blueridgenow.com reported.
The alliance developed in response to concerns about after the level of domestic violence in the community. In 2013, four homicides – all that occurred in Henderson County that year — resulted from domestic violence. Ten out of the county’s 16 homicides over the past five years were linked, the news outlet reported.
Organizers learned from the success of the High Point Police Department’s program, which two years ago shifted attention from the victim to the offender. Strategies include focusing on offenders through face-to-face intervention; monitoring offenders; and clearly outlining the consequences will be if the abuse continues.
The goal is simple: Intervene before anyone gets hurt or arrested. High Point police say the number of domestic violence-related calls, injuries, and arrests have declined. So has the number of deaths.
The approach is gaining steam. In addition to communities in North Carolina, law enforcement agencies in California, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and New Jersey are starting offender- focused initiatives. Some are turning to High Point’s staff for training, a North Carolina Fox station reported.
In Henderson County, officers are getting more training in strategies to investigate domestic violence calls. The new initiative focuses on more than just the arrest, said Sheriff Charles McDonald. The traditional approach “hasn’t necessarily allowed us to effectively deal with putting people on notice, holding them to standards and effectively reducing the amount of incidents,” he said.
The alliance hopes to let offenders know they “know you’re headed in a bad direction. You need to stop. We’ll help you now, but there comes a time and place where every exposure is going to reap an increased penalty,” McDonald told blueridgenow.com.
The plan is “not just putting more people in jail, but hopefully stopping more people from having to get to the point where jail is the only answer left,” he said.
It’s hard to fathom that in 2014, Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), in the United States is still an epidemic. Intimate partner homicides make up around 40–50 percent of all murders of women in the United States. If that statistic didn’t disturb you, The Huffington Post noted the difference between American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 and the number of American women killed by current or ex male partners during the same time frame, 6,488 and 11,766 , respectively. IPV homicides are practically double the amount of casualties lost during war.
It’s quite clear that something is seriously not working with how the U.S is addressing domestic violence. While domestic violence committed by intimate partners has declined by more than 60 % since Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, since then, the numbers have stayed “relatively flat.”
Thankfully, programs like the High Point Police Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative and Futures Without Violence’s Coaching Boys Into Men are starting to put a dent in the dismal statistics. Both programs focus on preventing domestic violence by concentrating on the offender and their behavior instead of the victim. Most traditional IPV interventions have been victim-focused, having a “heavy emphasis on helping victims avoid patterns of abuse, on disengaging from abusers, and on physically removing themselves from abusive settings.”
In 2009, The High Point Police Department asked, “What if, in addition to providing services for the victim, we used very focused formal and informal sanctions against the offender? Can the IPV offender be held accountable with real predictable consequences without creating additional harm for the victims?” Thus, after consulting with researchers, practitioners and community members, the High Point Police Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative was born. The initiative was implemented in 2012 and “targets the offender with a strategy of aggressive deterrence.”
Since the implementation of the program , the recidivism rate for domestic-violence offenders in High Point has been cut to about 9 percent, which according to the police department, is about one-third the national rate.
Over in Pennsylvania, the Coaching Boys Into Men program engages young male athletes to practice respect towards themselves and others by learning how to build non-violent relationships from their coaches. The curriculum based program feeds on the premise that young athletes view their coaches as role models and take their advice seriously.
The Coaching Boys Into Men curriculum is broken down into a series of “training cards” and addresses issues such as “catcalling and demeaning boasts about girlfriends.” The curriculum is usually given before practices. Wendell Say, head football coach for 35 years at Aiea High School, has been using the program for over five years before practice. Say told ABC News, “The curriculum is simple — it just takes 15 minutes at most, unless you let the kids talk…I sometimes take 45 minutes.”
The philosophy behind the program is evident in the pledge taken by players and coaches:
“I believe in treating women and girls with honor and respect. I know that violence is neither a solution nor a sign of strength. I believe that real men lead with conviction and speak out against violence against women and girls. I believe that I can be a role model to others by taking this pledge.”
Offender-based programs are the vanguard in the fight against domestic violence. As National Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones reminds us, “Like all domestic violence cases, there is one person to blame: the abuser.”
Big Mountain Data made its debut into the “data science for social good” arena by participating in the inaugural hackathon hosted by Y Combinator-backed Bayes Impact. Bayes Impact is a nonprofit dedicated to solving big social problems with data science.
Five teams submitted a range of solutions based on datasets we provided via our data partner, the High Point Police Department (HPPD).
The hackathon teams performed brilliantly. We’re in the process of following up with all of them to get feedback on all the HPPD submissions, as well as the team ideas on further recommendations on next steps.
The net result for HPPD and Big Mountain Data is we proved our initial hypothesis: that data science can be a powerful tool in the fight against domestic violence. This is an important, validating first step in our journey. We have great admiration and appreciation for the brilliant teams that worked on our data.
Here are a few of the teams who made our dream come true.