BY: Brian Rogers
HOUSTON, TX – Houston police commanders who are targeting domestic violence in an effort to prevent homicides implemented a new policy Wednesday, and will now send a supervisor to crime scenes where there are allegations of domestic violence but no arrests have been made.
The change is an effort to increase awareness among law enforcement and prosecutors that victims of domestic violence, specifically those who are strangled and survive, are eight times more likely to be killed by the abuser within a year, according to studies.
At a press conference Wednesday where they were flanked by more than a dozen senior police officers and prosecutors, HPD Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the new policy. It requires supervisors to go to domestic violence calls where there is not an arrest to double check whether charges should be filed. HPD officers are also being trained to look for signs of strangulation that may not be readily apparent, such as victims who say they saw stars or exhibited raspiness in their voice.
“We know that too often, domestic violence leads to homicides,” Acevedo said. “We want to put perpetrators on notice that the Houston Police Department will be putting you in jail if you commit acts of domestic violence.”
Acevedo said Houston recorded 43 domestic violence homicides last year.
Acevedo also encouraged immigrants in Houston without documentation to report crime, especially domestic violence.
“We’re not interested in somebody’s immigration status,” he said. “If a person is a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime, we want them to understand that this department, this DA, our mayor, our community, stands with victims and witnesses of crime.”
In April, Acevedo said a police department analysis found the number of Hispanics reporting rape was down 42.8 percent from last year, and those reporting other violent crimes had registered a 13 percent drop. He blamed the drop on fear about deportation among immigrants, and said fewer people reporting crime affects the safety of the entire community.
On Wednesday, law enforcement officials said they hope collecting evidence of strangulation early in the process will mean they can file more serious charges and prosecute them more aggressively.
The policy adds to an ongoing initiative by the DA’s office, called the strangulation task force, to increase communication between police called to the scene of domestic violence and prosecutors who sign off on charges being filed.
“The solutions are not that difficult,” Ogg said. “Train our lawyers, train our officers and make more appeals that are evidence-based to our judges when setting bail.”
The initiative was applauded by domestic violence experts, including officials with the Houston Area Women’s Center, who said they hope it prevents the escalation of violence that leads to fatal confrontations.
“Domestic violence is very prevalent in our community.” said Sonia Corrales, the interim president of HAWC. “Domestic violence is a preventable crime. We know what it is, and we know what to do about it. The only way to do it, is by working together.”
Posted on March 7, 2018 at 12:12 pm