New South Carolina Program Trains Probation Officers to Work Specifically with DV Cases

Over the past two decades, South Carolina has been ranked among the highest domestic violence hotspots in the nation. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), South Carolina has had double the national average of women murdered by intimate partners and nearly 1 out of every 5 women in South Carolina will experience stalking at some point in their life. Big Mountain Data spoke with Peter O’Boyle, public relations director of South Carolina’s Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon (DPPP), to learn what the state is doing to lower these statistics and better protect its victims from domestic violence.

“Unfortunately, in South Carolina, we have always been ranked at the top of the nation for domestic violence cases for percent of our population,” said O’Boyle. “Thankfully, however, Governor Henry [McMaster] has been working closely with us and suggested the creation of a specialized task force.”

Governor McMaster, upon winning his election earlier this year, began studying the current laws in place. His recommended solution to the state’s high rates of offenses was to create a specialized task force comprised of trained parole officers to deal specifically with domestic violence cases.

“A typical agent will be dealing in all areas of the law, including property crimes, burglary, nonviolent offenses, and even murder,” said O’Boyle.

The specific training of these newly appointed agents will lower their case load and allow for more victims to be helped.

The Post and Courier, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for “Till Death Do Us Part,” a special investigation on domestic violence, recently reported that $1.2 million was funded for the new training program for officers. This funding includes the hiring of 20 new agents who will complete a one week program which will educate officers on handling offenders and working with victims. The main goals of the new task force will be to specialize agents’ skills, decrease caseloads, and more closely supervise offenders.

The new program hopes to cover approximately 60% of all domestic violence cases in South Carolina by targeting high-risk areas. Two centers are already planned to open in both Charleston and Dorchester. In an interview with the Post and Courier, Jerry Adger, director of the DPPP, said he would like to see specialized officers in every county of the state and believes within the coming year, the new program will make a big impact on the safety of the state.

Video Credit: Post and Currier © 

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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Sneak Peek at Insights from Key Players in “Turning Point”

screenAmong 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.

jimJim 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.”

Texas Judge Meets With Offenders In Unusual Program

State District Judge Rick Magnis congratulates a graduate of his Felony Domestic Violence Court Program. Photo by Smiley N. Pool/Staff Photographer, Dallas Morning News

State District Judge Rick Magnis congratulates a graduate of his Felony Domestic Violence Court Program. Photo by Smiley N. Pool/Staff Photographer, Dallas Morning News

In February, three high-risk offenders in Texas graduated from a yearlong program that included GPS monitoring, classes to prevent abuse, and regular meetings with a judge. Despite limited evidence of the success of batterer intervention programs, the initial success of the Texas program provides a potential model for other communities.

State District Judge Rick Magnis launched the program in January 2014, and about 36 offenders who “showed signs of deadly behavior, such as strangulation or stalking” have participated, the Dallas Morning News reported. It’s thought to be the only program of its kind in Texas.

Magnis described his role as expanding beyond disciplinarian and including an interest in the men’s lives. “I want to have a relationship with them because I think some of them want to and sincerely can change, and I want them to know I’m here,” Magnis told the Dallas Morning News. But, he added, “I want them to know if they hurt someone, they’re going away.”

The judge praised the three men for sticking with the program and staying out of trouble. The men will have to report to Magnis quarterly for the next year. They will also meet regularly with a probation officer. The judge ordered their names withheld to protect their identities as an effort to allow them to keep jobs and avoid violence. (We wrote about identifying offenders on April 2, and we’ll write more about the issue in future posts.)

Magnis conceded the program was not easy – or fun. “But I do want all three of you to stay out of the penitentiary, and I do want people you’re with to feel nurtured and loved, and not hurt,” he told the paper.

The graduates received medallions and certificates. “It wasn’t easy, but this is a reward,” one graduate told the paper. “I feel like we’ve all become better men for it.”

More than Half Of Colorado Offenders Did Not Complete Mandated Treatment

coloradoA team of academics recommended changes to Colorado’s domestic violence offender treatment programs after a study found that more than half of the state’s domestic violence offenders at significant risk of re-offending failed to complete their assigned treatment. The findings were the result of a yearlong study of more than 3,000 domestic violence cases in Colorado.

The recommendations, outlined in a 20-page report released in February, include more cautious reassessment of offenders over the course of treatment; continued research on the effectiveness of batterer treatment models; standardized tools to demonstrate treatment milestones and success; and development of best practices with co-occurring disorders. The research was done by Tara N. Richards, assistant professor in the University of Baltimore’s School of Criminal Justice in the College of Public Affairs; and Angela Gover, professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. They spent a year evaluating how organizations were implementing the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board’s state Standards policy on responding to domestic violence.

Press releases summarize the policy as including the use of multidisciplinary treatment teams consisting of a probation officer, treatment provider, and victim treatment advocate to supervise domestic violence offenders, and the assigning of offenders to differentiated treatment intensity levels based on their criminogenic risks and needs.  The report notes that Colorado has mandated court-ordered treatment for domestic violence offenders since 1987. Although most states have such policies, “Little is known about the extent to which these standards are implemented as intended and if so, whether they are effective in reducing recidivism,” the report says.  In addition to increased safety for the victim and the community, treating offenders “provides the offender with the opportunity for personal change by challenging destructive core beliefs and teaching positive cognitive-behavioral skills,” according to the report.

Researchers found that almost half of the domestic violence offenders in the study were placed in high-intensity treatment (rather than low or moderate intensity) because of “significant criminogenic risks and needs, such as prior domestic violence or non-domestic violence crimes, substance abuse, or the use or threatened use of weapons against their victims.”

Richards and Gover will continue to work with domestic violence treatment providers in Colorado to improve ways to engage offenders in treatment, the universities reported.