Contact: John Caher, Press Office
(518) 457-8415 or cell: (518) 225-5240
john.caher@dcjs.ny.gov
For immediate release: Monday, December 22, 2008

NOTE: Amy Barasch, executive director of the NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, is available for interviews after 2 p.m. today. Call Suzanne Cecala at 518-457-5744, to arrange for an interview.

More than half of New York’s female homicide victims killed in domestic incidents
Bellwether study provides comprehensive view of domestic violence fatalities in NYS

ALBANY ─ Fifty-five percent of female homicide victims in New York State last year were murdered as a result of a domestic incident, according to a new report by researchers at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

The report, “Domestic Homicide in New York State: 2007,” is believed to be the most comprehensive statewide analysis of homicides in which the victim was either an intimate partner or child of the alleged assailant, or involved some other type of family relationship. It provides information on domestic homicides and its component relationship categories ─ intimate partner, child victim, and other family member.

“Domestic violence often occurs out of sight and, historically, out of mind,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “It is a blight on our society, and this report sheds new light on the extent of domestic violence, and the lives it claims. I will be relying on this report, and its troubling findings, as we consider new strategies to address domestic violence. Although we are struggling with a fiscal crisis, we will not sacrifice the public safety and we will not abandon the victims of domestic violence.” 

The DCJS report shows that intimate partners were victims in 58 percent of New York City’s domestic homicides last year and nearly 48 percent of the domestic homicides that occurred in the rest of the state.

Denise E. O’Donnell, commissioner of DCJS and assistant secretary for criminal justice, noted that this year’s Operation IMPACT awards included specific grants to combat domestic violence. IMPACT is the state’s program to tackle violent and gun crime upstate and on Long Island through intelligence-based policing, partnerships among law enforcement and community organizations and timely use of accurate crime data.

“This report proves what we had suspected – that a significant percentage of homicides in this state are rooted in domestic violence,” Commissioner O’Donnell said. “Through programs like IMPACT, Governor Paterson and I are committed to fighting domestic violence with proven, cost-effective strategies.”

Added Amy Barasch, executive director of the Governor’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence: “This in-depth analysis of New York State data shows that more than a third of the homicides of women in the state were committed by their intimate partners. Given that nationally up to 80 percent of all intimate partner homicides were preceded by other forms of domestic violence, analyzing homicide data helps us to work with law enforcement and advocacy organizations to strengthen initial responses to domestic violence with the goal of reducing crime generally, and homicides in particular.”

A “domestic homicide,” for the purposes of this report, involves the murder or non-negligent manslaughter of:  an intimate partner, including a spouse, ex-spouse, sexual partner or ex-partner; a child, including a biological or adopted child or one killed by the intimate partner of the parent; and other family members, such as sibling, grandparent or other extended family member.

Among the key findings:

  • Of the 800 homicide victims in 2007, 135 of them (17 percent) had a domestic relationship with the perpetrator.
  • Thirty-one counties ─ half the counties in the state ─ reported at least one domestic homicide in 2007.
    • In 15 of the 31, domestic homicides accounted for half or more of all the homicides reported by the county for the year.
    • In nine counties, every single reported homicide was classified as a domestic homicide.
    • In six counties, domestic homicides accounted for more than half of the reported homicides.
  • Thirty-one counties did not report any domestic homicides (however, 17 of them did not report any homicides at all).
  • More than half (72) of the state’s 135 domestic homicide victims in 2007 had a current or former intimate relationship with the assailant. Over 80 percent of the 72 intimate partner homicide victims were women.
  • Statewide, of the 36 child victims of domestic homicide, 22 of them were under the age of one.
  • In New York City, the majority of the victims of intimate partner homicide were black; however, in the rest of the state, whites accounted for three-quarters of intimate partner victims.
  • Hispanics were victims in one-quarter of the intimate partner homicides in New York City.

The report, written by Adriana Fernandez-Lanier, Ph.D. and James A. Gilmer, both of the DCJS Office of Justice Research and Performance, is derived from data submitted monthly by state and local law enforcement agencies. It provides detailed information on the 135 domestic homicides reported to the police during 2007.

Commissioner O’Donnell said the research report is illustrative of the Paterson Administration’s intelligence-driven law enforcement strategy.

“In order to fight and prevent crime we have to understand where, when and why certain offenses occur,” Commissioner O’Donnell said. “Clearly identifying a problem is the first step toward solving a problem. This type of analysis provides law enforcement with the insight it needs to combat crime proactively.”

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) is building upon the DCJS crime analysis strategy by creating a “domestic violence dashboard” of statewide statistics and trends. The initiative,  a joint project of OPDV and its interagency Domestic Violence Advisory Council, will be launched early next year, according to Executive Director Barasch.

“This baseline data will enable New York State to track its success in reducing domestic violence, and identify areas or communities that would benefit from further support in responding to this persistent social problem,” Executive Director Barasch said. “The dashboard will become an annual measure of the state’s progress in reducing domestic violence.”

The entire report is available on the DCJS website (PDF - 200K). For more information on domestic violence, visit the OPDV website (www.opdv.ny.gov).

This year, Governor Paterson signed into law several bills to protect victims of domestic violence.  One of them expands the definition of “same family or household” to include unrelated individuals who were involved in an intimate relationship with the victim, regardless of whether they had ever lived together. Another allows criminal mischief charges to be brought when an abuser damages jointly owned property. And a third makes it a crime to prevent someone, by disabling or removing a telephone or other communications tool, from seeking emergency assistance.

 

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence was created in 1992 to improve New York State’s response to and prevention of domestic violence with the goal of enhancing the safety of all New Yorkers in their intimate and family relationships. OPDV provides guidance to Executive level staff on policy and legislation and conducts statewide community outreach and public education programs. OPDV trains professionals on addressing domestic violence in a wide array of disciplines, including child welfare, law enforcement, local district social service providers, and health care professionals.


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