Big Mountain Data Assembles Data Analysis Panel at #IACP2016

IACP2016Law 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.

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Who is Keeping Track of the Dead? This woman.

2015-11-19-1447944639-6154714-ChristineArmstrong.jpgEvery day, for the past fifteen years, Christine Armstrong sits at her computer and scans the overnight news stories for deaths related to domestic violence.  These days, she limits her research time to four hours a day. Well, she tries anyway.

Her quest began in 2000 when Armstrong had a personal brush with domestic violence and then helped a friend escape an extremely dangerous marriage.  At the time, she was living in New York City working in the television business. Her experience prompted her to learn everything she could about domestic violence.  After her research revealed how prevalent domestic violence homicides were around the country, she was surprised she wasn’t able to find any documentation other than a few hundred names on a national organization’s web site. Horrified, and knowing there there were many, many more victims as a result of her own investigation, she began searching them out and documenting them with calendars.

Today in 2015, she has honed a sophisticated practice of conducting news searches that scour the web using over 27 different keyword combinations that turn up homicide stories every day that the media doesn’t always correctly identify as domestic violence related.  This unfortunate practice of “missing” the domestic violence connection to homicides is one that has been well-documented in academic and journalism circles. According to researcher Lane Kirkland Gillespie, assistant professor in the department of criminal justice at Boise State University, “Recent studies find only about one-quarter to one-third of news stories utilize language that identifies the homicide as domestic violence; and a lesser amount, 10-15%, specifically discuss intimate partner homicide in the context of domestic violence as a broader social issue.” (See her academic paper on the subject.)

Soon after she began her record-keeping, Armstong started volunteering in the field educating others about domestic violence.  She kept up the chronicling of domestic violence homicides from 2001 to 2004.  In 2005, she relocated to Alabama and went to work for a local shelter where for the next seven years she would continue to research the stories, keep calendars, notebooks, and spreadsheets of data as part of her day job.  She eventually built a web site, 2015-11-18-1447864608-1178054-f.pngand launched a Facebook page where she could post daily stories for the public.  That Facebook page has grown to more than 28,000 fans with thousands of posts over the last few years.  She left the shelter in 2011, and two years ago she had to take the web site down, as it was difficult to justify the expense and time maintaining the platform.

Yet, her work has continued even though now she is employed outside the field.  Publishing at least a half dozen different news reports a day, she tracks it all: women, men, parents, grandparents, children, neighbors, co-workers, law enforcement officers, and any other bystanders impacted by these crimes.  On average, Armstrong is documenting approximately 1,800 names a year that have been directly touched by domestic violence homicides.  Her spreadsheets contain over 14,000 names.  She keeps a running list of missing and unsolved cases she’s turned up over the years.  The list includes more than 800 missing women where domestic violence is known or is believed to have been a factor in their disappearance. You can see their photos on her Facebook photo albums.

“I do this work because, to my knowledge, no one else is doing it and many of these victims aren’t even included in domestic violence statistics. A lot more people are dying from domestic violence crimes than most people realize. These are real people with lives. Their loved ones have been in touch with me and would like to see some good come from their loss.” – Christine Armstrong

As difficult as this work is, Armstrong perseveres.  What’s most alarming to her is how little things have changed over fifteen years.  She sees the same stories in 2015 she saw in 2001.  The stories reveal how common it is for a domestic violence homicide suspect to have several contacts with the police and the courts with little or no consequence.  She notes that with 18,000 separate police departments and justice systems in the country, progress is sketchy and piecemeal.  The quality of service a domestic violence victim receives largely depends on where they live, and sadly, the majority of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges don’t know how to recognize a domestic violence case when the clues are so obvious.  “Rarely does a day go by that I don’t see a story where some law enforcement officer, prosecutor or judge declined to intervene in a high risk case and now another person is dead,” she says.

Armstrong points out some of the worst to suffer are the thousands of children who have lost one or both parents to domestic violence.  Even worse, many have witnessed the violent deaths of one or both of their parents. Left orphaned, many end up in the custody of the state and in foster homes.

One trend Armstrong has observed is particularly troubling. Her data reveals there are more homicides stemming from dating relationships than married relationships in the past few years. Advocates have long been seeking equal protection in dating relationships, particularly as it relates to protection orders and removal of firearms. Progress has been slow, yet the body counts mount.

As a whole, Armstrong  feels we don’t seem to be learning much from our mistakes.  A lot of the change that does take place, seems to take a tragic death and a high profile lawsuit to make it happen. She’s disappointed and somewhat shocked in light of recent national media attention that there isn’t much unity in our national response to this chronic social epidemic. She says, “While response has improved in some of our communities, much work still needs to be done – an incredible amount of work.”

Armstrong is doing her part.

 

Guns Turn Domestic Violence Into Domestic Homicide, Report Says

South Carolina, Alaska and New Mexico top the list of high rates of women murdered by men,  according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2013 Homicide Data.”

The study, released in advance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, found that nationwide, 94 percent of women killed by men were murdered by someone they knew, and the most common weapon used was a gun.VPCreport coverThe study applies to 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. It covers homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender, and uses data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Supplementary Homicide Report.

A total of 1,615 females in the United States were murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2013, at a rate of 1.09 per 100,000. The report found that 94 percent of female victims were murdered by a male they knew.

According to the report, 280 of the women murdered in 2013 were shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during an argument. “This is the exact scenario – the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman – that is often used to promote gun ownership among women,” the report notes. “Women face the greatest threat from someone they know, most often a spouse or an intimate acquaintance, who is armed with a gun. For women in America, guns are not used to save lives, but to take them.”

“When men murder women, the most common weapon used is a gun,” Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a press release. “Closing gaps in state and federal gun laws will save women’s lives.”

Despite the grim statistics, the overall trend of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents has declined. In 1996, the rate was 1.57 per 100,000 women, compared to 1.09 women in 2013. That’s a 31 percent decrease.

Here are the 10 states with the highest rate of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents in 2013:

  • South Carolina: 2.32 per 100,000
  • Alaska: 2.29 per 100,000
  • New Mexico: 2.00 per 100,000
  • Louisiana: 1.99 per 100,000
  • Nevada: 1.95 per 100,000
  • (tie)Tennessee: 1.65 per 100,000
  • (tie) Oklahoma: 1.65 per 100,000
  • Vermont: 1.58 per 100,000
  • Maine: 1.47 per 100,000
  • Michigan: 1.45 per 100,000

An Introduction to Data from Police Executive Research Forum Study

A recent newsletter of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) provides a wealth of data and information about domestic violence. PERF is an independent research organization that focuses on policing issues. Its mission includes strategies relevant to efforts to end domestic violence: developing community policing and problem-oriented policing; and evaluating crime reduction strategies.

This post provides an overview of the information the study uncovered. You can download the report here. Future posts will take a closer look at issues the report addresses, including Family Justice Centers and police strategies for dealing with repeat offenders. And we’ll keep an eye out for more news from PERF, which holds its annual meeting June 2 to 5 in Phoenix.

PERF surveyed 358 law enforcement agencies about their domestic violence investigations. The survey asked for statistics and descriptions about strategies and programs. PERF researchers then interviewed police officials via phone about their department’s best practices.

“Many of the most promising programs involve cooperation between police and victim services groups,” the newsletter says in introducing its findings.

Researchers crunched the numbers, and here’s what they found:PERF

• 14% of homicides involved domestic violence.
• 64% of the agencies reported that the percentage of homicides involving domestic violence remained stable between 2009 and 2013.
• 18% said the percentage of homicides involving domestic violence in that period increased; 18% said it decreased.
• 27% of the departments surveyed said aggravated assaults included domestic violence.
• On average, departments surveyed said 8% of their agency’s total calls are related to domestic violence.
• 95% of respondents said their agency has a specific policy for responding to domestic violence incidents.
• 43% of agencies have a specific unit devoted to domestic violence cases.
• In 84% of agencies, personnel outside the domestic violence unit are trained on responding to domestic violence cases.
• 27% of agencies provide training on domestic violence between same-sex partners.
• 65% of agencies have special policies for handling domestic violence cases perpetrated by law enforcement personnel.
• 89% of agencies provide victims with information on how to obtain orders of protection.
• 44% of agencies help victims fill out paperwork for an order; 29% accompany victims to court to obtain an order.
• 42% of agencies use “structured risk” of lethality assessments to determine the level of danger to the victim.
• 88% of agencies document domestic violence incidents by location; 73% document incidents by perpetrator.
• 39% percent of respondents said their agency has a specific policy for responding to repeat offenders.

Whew. That’s a lot to take in. Think about these statistics, and stay tuned for closer looks at some of the issues the survey addressed.

 

Community Comes Together to Support Innovative Massachusetts Law Addressing Domestic Violence

DeleoElected officials are beginning to understand the need for systemic change regarding domestic/intimate partner violence (IPV).  In 2014, The Massachusetts Legislature passed SB 2334.

“I firmly believe that comprehensive action – examining existing loopholes, elevating criminal penalties and prioritizing prevention – is the only strategy that will result in systemic change.” – Speaker of the House Robert Deleo

The law is comprehensive and not without detractors, yet it addresses some of the more egregious remnants of lax laws and takes a bold step forward.  The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, the state coalition against domestic violence Jane Doe, Inc.,  and domestic violence advocates throughout the state applaud the comprehensive legislation.  Key provisions that will go into effect in 2015 include:

  • Delaying bail for domestic violence offenders by six hours
  • Levying charges and heightened punishment for strangulation and suffocation incidents
  • Establishing Fatality Review Teams
  • Expanded training for law enforcement and judges
  • Allowing employee leave time for victims

The law will also get rid of “accord and satisfaction” agreements.   Accord and satisfaction are out-of-court settlements used to resolve charges involving physical violence.  Abusers tend to intimidate victims by pressuring them to accept this option.

The specific strangulation and suffocation charges are ground-breaking and necessary.  According to the Journal of Emergency Medicine,  23% to 68% of female domestic violence victims experienced at least one strangulation-related incident from their abusive male partner during their lifetime.  Research also bears out what victims, legal practitioners, and medical personnel already know – strangulation is one of the most potentially lethal forms of intimate partner abuse.  Currently, charges run the gamut from misdemeanor simple assault to the impossible to prove attempted murder.  A 2008 Journal of Emergency Medicine study found that a woman who experiences nonlethal strangulation — whether by someone’s hands or by ligature or other means — is seven times more likely to be the object of a murder attempt by her assailant.  It also found that 43 percent of women killed in domestic violence attacks, and 45 percent of attempted-murder victims, had been strangled by a partner in the previous year.

This new law is a step in the right direction and demands specific collaborative efforts by employers, schools and civil courts.   Injury prevention experts from the Centers for Disease Control, community health departments, academic research  and the domestic violence field support the need for a community response.

Other violence prevention initiatives requiring community involvement include offender focus intervention, GPS monitoring, bystander training, and Coaching Boys Into Men.

 

 

 

Stark Reminder of Family Violence on Nightly News

whiteWe have a solid evening routine. I blast music while making dinner, and then we sit around the table to eat and discuss the highs and lows of our day. Buzzing underneath the symphony of happy chatter is the invaluable knowledge that we are stable and safe. After the dinner hour, my husband and I plop on the couch, flip on the local news, and my bubble of security bursts on a nightly basis.

We live in Central Florida, where family violence occurs at an astonishingly high rate. Last night alone, reporters shared news of four separate homicides. Joshua Ortiz may have killed his mother, Jacqueline Ortiz, and is currently on the run. Police reports indicate Ortiz battered his mother in the past. A trial began for Dwayne White, the estranged husband of Sarah Rucker, who is accused of stabbing Rucker in the neck and leaving her body in a dumpster. Rucker reached out to law enforcement several times before her murder and claimed she was, “as good as dead.” After a domestic dispute with his wife, David Mohney article-orlando3-1017shot three of his children and then killed himself. Only one of the children survived and recently progressed from critical to stable condition. Bonnie Motto called the police after her son’s father, Ricardo De Jesus Barrera, locked her children in their room and broke toys in a violent rage. The police determined it was not an incident of domestic violence. Barrera returned to the home two days later and killed Motto, along with her mother, Julie Motto, in front of Bonnie’s children.

According to Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, 98% of domestic abuse homicide victims in this area are women who have left or are in the process of leaving their abusers.

One domestic violence related homicide story is too many, but the sheer volume of stories that invade the comfort of our home each night serve as jarring wake-up calls that we are not doing enough to prevent these tragedies. Central Florida must stand up to offenders and demand accountability.