It is not often that a new perspective on an old problem brings new clarity.
Outgoing Dallas City Councilor Jennifer Staubach Gates is responsible for accomplishing just that at her last meeting as Chair of the Public Safety Committee this week, and succinctly bringing home an important but overlooked reality about domestic violence.
“Family violators are often implicated in other violent crimes and offenses,” said Gates, who also chaired the Domestic Violence Task Force in Dallas. “So the strategic reduction of violence in the family should help us to reduce all violent crimes.”
In other words, domestic violence extends beyond the four walls of a house or apartment and affects the number of violent crimes in Dallas.
Think about this important point for a moment. Street corner murders, gang violence, and deadly drug deals that went wrong shape our perception of Dallas and public safety. But what about domestic violence? It is also an often cruel and fatal attack against another human being, the main difference being the intimate emotional relationship between the perpetrator and the victim.
As of 2018, domestic violence has accounted for between 10 and 14% of murders in Dallas annually. And last year, about 25% of the 8,048 grievous bodily harm cases involved family members or intimate partners.
Unfortunately, this unacceptable pace of domestic violence continues this year, accounting for 818 of the 3,207 grievous bodily harm to date. Not surprisingly, firearms play a prominent role in murders linked to family violence and serious assault.
Hundreds of women are shot dead by their intimate partners across the country and millions are threatened with a firearm. Therefore, this community must creatively and comprehensively reduce the threat of domestic violence from preventive measures to an emergency call to law enforcement and victim protection.
At the scene of a domestic dispute, for example, the police often conduct a Lethality Assessment Profile, a checklist of factors used to determine the level of threat a perpetrator poses to a partner. For a variety of reasons – some legal and others bureaucratic – this paper document is not always available to the judges who direct these domestic violence cases.
This is a missed opportunity. As this Dallas County bail newspaper noted, a system that is not structured to keep a dangerous person away from their victim is broken. Dallas County judges, prosecutors, local police and federal law enforcement agencies must work together and creatively to improve the bail system and use perpetrator stories and other data to protect domestic violence victims.
Separately, the Dallas Police Department also needs to strengthen the domestic violence unit. The unit currently has nine detectives and one sergeant behind due to promotions, retirements and transfers. We trust Chief Eddie Garcia will address this quickly.
Although Gates is leaving the council, she will remain heavily involved in policymaking to reduce domestic violence. We hope their leadership continues to bring stakeholders together to support stronger safety nets and intervention strategies.
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