Dallas Police Chief Reports Domestic-violence Murder is on the Rise

by Manju Alexander | Dec 11, 2012

Dallas Police Chief David Brown tells council domestic-violence murder is on the rise

By Tanya Eiserer
The Dallas Morning News

10 December 2012

Domestic violence-related murders are on the rise in Dallas.

In 2011, the city recorded 10 such murders. But the tally has hit 25 through almost the first 11 months of 2012, Dallas police officials said Monday.

“That’s a significant increase,” Police Chief David Brown told council members during a meeting of the council’s public safety committee.

Brown cited the increase as one of the factors driving murders up in the calendar year: There were 133 murders in all of last year, the lowest total since 1967, but there have been 148 murders this year as of Monday.

Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place shelter, says she’s troubled by the spike in domestic violence-related murders, and believes it may be partially related to ongoing economic difficulties many families face.

“Just stop and think how many lives that represents and how many kids whose parents aren’t around,” Flink said. “It’s more than just a number.”

Flink also believes the easy access to guns plays a huge role, pointing out that “guns and domestic violence are a dangerous combination. It’s not about gun control, but it’s about access to guns in the heat of the moment.”

During the committee meeting, Brown said that the department has beefed up the number of detectives assigned to the family violence unit. Over the last two years, the number of detectives working in that unit has risen from 12 to 29.

The department also has expedited the filing of many misdemeanor family violence cases with prosecutors, and improved the unit’s case tracking systems.

In October, the department started a “lethality assessment” pilot program in which patrol officers ask 11-yes-or-no questions during domestic violence calls to ascertain whether a domestic call is a high-risk situation. If it is, the officer will explain to the victim that people in such situations have been seriously hurt or killed. Then the officer will call a domestic violence hotline and urge the victim to speak immediately to a counselor.

“We’ve actually changed what happens at the scene when we’re called to a domestic violence incident,” Brown said.

Police officials adopted the program after a Dallas Morning News story explored the department’s lack of a systemic approach to identifying high-risk domestic violence situations before something deadly happens.

Flink said the shelter has already seen a change since the program took effect.

In October, the first month of the program, The Family Place housed 105 people, compared with 32 in the month the year before.

“It’s absolutely increased how many [hotline] calls we have and how many are coming in for shelter,” she said. “What’s interesting is that they aren’t staying as long as our regular clients do.”

Flink said the new clients are getting help where they didn’t in the past largely because the officers who are warning them when they’re in danger are authority figures.

She also said that she’s seen a change in the attitude of the department’s overall response to family violence.

“This is the most communication I’ve had with DPD in five years,” she said. “It makes a big difference to have that line of communication.”

Read more in The Dallas Morning News