KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the last 10 years a partnership between police and domestic violence shelters is being credited for reducing the number of domestic violence murders.
In 2009, police began requiring officers to perform so-called lethality assessments, when they’re at the scene of a domestic violence call.
Officers must ask victims evidence-based questions that include: Has your partner tried to choke or strangle you? Does your partner have a gun? Has your partner used a weapon to threaten you?
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.: “Yes” answers indicate the victim is likely to be killed and officers must call the domestic violence hotline and try to convince the victim to speak with a counselor.
Half the time victims agree to talk to social workers, and that’s a big change from when police simply handed victims a brochure.
“Everybody who was killed in domestic violence, almost everybody, had called the police at one time,” director of Synergy Services Robin Winner said. “They had not accessed services. But they (researchers) found when they (victims) accessed services of any kind, whether it be counseling, safety planning or shelter, the lethality level completely changes. We know if someone contacts law enforcement and takes advantage of our coordinated services, the likelihood of their being killed is reduced significantly.”
The shelters say before 2009 less than 100 victims a year would call from the scene of a domestic violence incident to seek help.
In the last ten years, police have made nearly 30,000 hotline calls for victims. Only seven of those referrals later ended up as homicide victims.
Kansas City was the first major police force to adopt these lethality assessments. Now about 200 other cities use them to link domestic violence victims to services.
Kansas City averages about 5.5 domestic violence homicides a year. That’s a lower rate than comparable cities.