Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 5. Law Enforcement Responses

Section 4 — Do they reduce abuse?

An early study of a specialized detective unit in Dade County, Fla., found that it did not affect reabuse rates. [174] However, the detective unit focused on referring parties to counseling. Subsequently, specialized units have been found to be more effective: Victims self-report significantly less reabuse but are more likely to report the reabuse they do suffer. [130] Another study found that specialized responses reduce "personal harm" but not nonpersonal harm, such as property damage. The positive effect may be tied to the safety planning offered to victims. [68] By contrast, research found that victim services alone are not associated with increased victim safety. [172, 220] Research in New York City among victims in public housing suggest that specific crime prevention training, as opposed to general victim counseling, may be associated more closely with reduced subsequent victimization. [37]

In North Carolina, 29 percent of the abusers handled by the specialized domestic violence unit had at least one subsequent domestic violence offense during a two-year follow-up period, compared to 37 percent of abusers handled solely by patrol units. This reduced rate was obtained even though the specialized unit handled more serious cases and offenders with more prior offenses. The odds ratio on reoffending for suspects handled by domestic violence units was nearly half that for suspects not handled by these units. Domestic violence suspects who reabused also reabused less often, averaging 0.46 new assaults compared to 0.62. The difference is statistically significant but, because fewer units' abusers reabused, the actual difference in the number of new incidents for just those abusers who reabused was less (1.59 vs. 1.67), not reaching statistical significance. [68]

Date Created: June 5, 2009