The NCNSC team was interviewed by reporter, John Buntin, of Governing Magazine about the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative in High Point. The article, published in March 2016, highlights High Point’s success in reducing domestic violence offenses and recidivism through the focused deterrence strategy. Additionally, Lexington, NC has replicated the strategy and experienced success in combating the problem of intimate partner domestic violence.
NCNSC’s John Weil was quoted in the article about the mindset needed for other agencies to replicate the initiative: “The operational piece of this is very complex and requires quite a bit of commitment and attention to detail. You can’t drop any particular piece and have this be effective.” Communities seeking to replicate the initiative must be mindful that there are many moving pieces to the strategy and every partner involved in domestic violence cases has to agree to commit to the partnership and the common goal of reducing domestic violence and addressing gaps in systems and processes that have allowed domestic violence offenders to skate through the criminal justice system with impunity. Additionally, partners must agree that the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative is a new way of doing business. As Weil states, “People bring a program mentality to this, but they are not programs. There is no beginning and no end.” All partners must stay committed and be accountable to the larger initiative to do their part. If any one piece fails, the entire strategy will fail.
Our partners in Statesville/Iredell Couty held their first-ever call-in for domestic violence offenders on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. According to Capt. Dan Miglin of the Statesville Police Department, there were some 2,832 cases of domestic violence investigated in Iredell County in 2013. Statesville/Iredell modeled their initiative after High Point’s Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative. The North Carolina Network for Safe Communities has been in partnership with the High Point Police Department since the planning stages of their domestic violence strategy and been in partnership with Statesville/Iredell since 2009 in assisting them with implementation of their initial focused deterrence strategy to combat gang violence.
With the domestic violence focused deterrence strategy, offenders with requisite records for domestic violence offenses are called in for a face-to-face meeting with the community, law enforcement, and resource partners to hear one clear, unified message: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS WRONG AND IT WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED.
The domestic violence call-in is similar to the chronic offender and gang/group call-ins which Statesville/Iredell has used in the past to send a stern message to violent offenders. However, the messaging is changed to be specific to the domestic violence offender. Offenders are educated about the potential prosecutorial levers that exist to use against domestic violence offenders in both the state and federal systems. They are warned that if they choose to reoffend with domestic violence after the call-in meeting, then law enforcement will follow up with swift, certain, and severe consequences. A prior victim of domestic violence spoke to offenders about the horrible consequences that their behavior has on children reared in homes where they witness domestic violence. Moral voice speakers from the community offered a message of support to help offenders with issues that may be related to their use of violence, but the support was backed with a firm statement that domestic violence is wrong.
Offenders’ anonymity was stripped and their behavior was brought to the forefront of both law enforcement and the community during the call-in. Domestic violence is no longer a secret in Statesville/Iredell County and partners are taking a clear stand against it through implementation of the domestic violence focused deterrence strategy. We wish them the best of luck and applaud their efforts!
Sites throughout NC are taking a closer look at how to take domestic violence more seriously from a legal standpoint. Lexington is replicating High Point’s Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative and they began C- and D-list offender notifications on July 1, 2014. Thus far, 83 domestic violence offenders have been notified by the Lexington Police Department that the violence will no longer be tolerated. Offenders are told that they are now on a watch list for domestic violence offenders and that future offending will be met with swift, severe, and certain consequences. From now on the Police Department will focus attention on the offenders to change their behavior and it is no longer the victim’s responsibility to get out of the situation. Of those offenders who have been notified, only 10% have picked up an additional domestic violence charge after notification. In fact, the majority of offenders who have been notified aren’t picking up any charges after notification, domestic or otherwise.
Word about the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative in Lexington is spreading quickly among the offender population. Bonds for domestic violence offenders are being set higher, prosecutors are working diligently to use levers to increase charges and potential associated punishments against domestic violence offenders, and there is now a bi-weekly working group that meets to discuss ongoing domestic cases and address gaps in the systems and processes surrounding how the community deals with domestic violence.
NC Network for Safe Communities is participating in the bi-weekly meetings to document the replication process as it unfolds in Lexington and is working with the Lexington Police Department to track data and evaluate the results of the effort.