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.
An interim analysis of domestic violence offenders who have been notified through the High Point Police Department’s focused deterrence initiative reveals that we know quite a bit how well the strategy is working in reducing domestic violence recidivism and with what types of offenders.
First of all, in general, the strategy of notifying domestic violence offenders that the police department now has a new way of dealing with domestic violence and is taking domestic violence crimes seriously works to deter future domestic violence recidivism.
The notification message goes onto to say that we [the police department] know who you are and you are now on a list being tracked for any future domestic violence offenses. Further domestic violence will result in swift, certain, and severe consequences. The offender’s anonymity is stripped and the offender is told that the victim is no longer driving the process. The police department is now taking charge. A seemingly simple concept has had rather astounding results when compared to traditional approaches to deter domestic violence. The graph below shows the 6-month and 1-year recidivism rates for notified offenders across offender categories in High Point.We have found that certain offenders are more likely than others to recidivate after notification at both the C and D levels.
First, the domestic violence history of an offender matters in whether or not they are likely to reoffend after notification. For both C- and D-level offenders, if they had a prior arrest for domestic violence before notification, they were more likely to reoffend after notification than offenders who did not have a prior domestic violence arrest. Therefore, it helps to know who is being notified based on their past arrest history and there may be room for adjusting the notification message or delivery method to account for past history in hopes of making the notification more successful in deterring future domestic violence for high-risk offenders. While most C-notified offenders (82.7%) did not reoffend after notification, 17.3% did reoffend. When looking at the C-level reoffenders, 60% had a prior domestic violence arrest before notification compared to only 32% of offenders who did not reoffend after C-notification. C-list reoffenders also had significantly more total domestic violence arrests prior to C-notification (1.35 prior domestic violence arrests on average) compared to non-reoffenders (.67 prior domestic violence arrests on average). A similar trend was found for D-notified offenders. Most D-notified offenders (77.6%) did not reoffend after notification with reoffenders being slightly more likely than non-reoffenders to have had a prior domestic violence arrest before notification.
Age of the offender at the time of their 1st domestic violence arrest is important in predicting whether the offender will reoffend after notification.Non-reoffenders were statistically significantly older at the age of first domestic violence arrest as compared to reoffenders. The average age of first domestic violence arrest for C-level reoffenders was 30.1 years which was significantly younger than non-reoffenders whose average age of first domestic violence arrest was 32.5 years. However, there was no significant difference between age at notification for C-list reoffenders and non-reoffenders. For D-list offenders, age at notification was associated with whether or not the offender reoffend after notification. D-notified reoffenders tended to be slightly younger at time of notification (average age at notification was 33.1 years) compared to non-reoffenders (average age at notification was 36.2 years). Like with the C-list trend, D-list reoffenders tended to be younger at age of first domestic violence arrest (average age was 30.9 years) compared to non-reoffenders (average age was 33.0 years).
Certain offenders reoffend very quickly after notification and they are very likely to reoffend again as they escalate up the offender notification categories. Specifically, if an offender quickly reoffended after D-notification (defined as getting a new domestic violence arrest within 180 days of initial notification), they were more likely to reoffend again after C-notification as compared to D-notified offender who were not quick reoffenders. 38% of Quick Reoffenders after D-notification went onto to reoffend after C notification. See graph below for more details.
What do we do now with what we know?
Can we take advantage of this knowledge based on what the data shows us about reoffenders to change the messaging or process in some way to better deter high risk offenders?
Other potential risk factors for reoffense after notification were: 1) being male, 2) being young, especially for C-list offenders, and 3) being an offender who qualified for D notification, but could not be located or otherwise reached to receive the D notification message.
What can be done to ensure that no offenders who should be notified fall through the cracks? In order for this strategy, or any focused deterrence strategy to be successful, offenders must be met with certain, severe, and swift consequences for their offending behavior.
Our partners in Fayetteville have gotten positive press about what they are doing to help ex-felons get a positive start. Mr. Tommy Kinlaw, a community member and partner with Fayetteville Police Department in their PSN (Operation Ceasefire) focused deterrence efforts, was recently featured in an article in the Fayetteville Observer. According to the article, “Kinlaw has become the face of recent community efforts to better transition services for former offenders looking to re-enter society”. Kinlaw runs a grocery store and believes that the community must step up and give ex-offenders a chance to get on their feet– and that is exactly what Kinlaw does. He has been known to hire ex-offenders on the spot, giving them the opportunity to go to work when many potential employers would turn them away. Kinlaw admits that he does not know exactly how many ex-offenders work for him, but he thinks maybe about half a dozen and he does not really delve into their criminal past. For Kinlaw, each new hire gets a clean slate.
The article goes onto to describe Kinlaw’s upbringing and experience and showcases some examples of the lives he has been able to change through his worldview and willingness to give folks a chance. The full article is available here.
Mr. Kinlaw will also be speaking at the upcoming PSN conference which will be hosted in Fayetteville May 5 & 6. For more information about the conference and how to register, please click: PSN 2015 Conference flier
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.