Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8906 or (518) 275-5508 (cell)
For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009
New Domestic Incident Report repository to provide law enforcement with important tool for investigating, prosecuting domestic incidents
Information is key to victim and officer safety, effective enforcement and prevention
Vital, comprehensive information on domestic violence incidents will be readily available for the first time ever to Upstate and Long Island law enforcement agencies under a new initiative announced today.
Using approximately $1.5 million in federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act aid, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the state’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) are developing a centralized, electronic “Domestic Incident Report” repository. The repository will give police officers, sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors, probation and parole officials the ability to search – by victim or offender name, incident address or document number –Domestic Incident Reports (DIRs) filed by more than 550 police agencies in the 57 counties outside of New York City.
“When domestic violence happens, police and prosecutors need to know if this is the first incident or one of series so they can handle the case appropriately,” Governor David A. Paterson said. “Until now, if the previous incidents were in different places, the local police would have no way to know about them. With this database, police will know about any prior cases immediately, no matter where they occurred. Having centralized data also will show where services are most needed.”
Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell and OPDV Executive Director Amy Barasch announced the creation of the repository in Saratoga Springs, at a day-long domestic violence prevention and enforcement strategies conference for senior-level law enforcement officials from the 17 counties that participate in Operation IMPACT, the state’s initiative to target violent and gun crime Upstate and on Long Island.
Law enforcement agencies across Upstate and on Long Island respond to approximately 175,000 domestic incidents annually, using a paper Domestic Incident Report to document each call, regardless of whether an arrest was made.
Those DIRs detail a wealth of information, such as the names of the individuals involved and the circumstances surrounding each call, including if weapons were present at the location or threats were made, which can be crucial to victim and officer safety and effective prosecution of domestic violence cases.
However, those hard-copy reports, which are filed chronologically with each department and DCJS, are not conducive to cross-referencing or data-mining. The new system is similar to one that has been utilized by the New York Police Department and will provide a far more complete look at the incidence of domestic violence across the rest of the state.
“Access to data captured in DIRs will provide a more accurate picture of the extent and nature of domestic violence, allowing law enforcement and advocates to develop policies and coordinated strategies that will turn the tide against this devastating crime in their communities,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said.
“Although law enforcement agencies have made great strides in responding to domestic violence, the problem persists,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added. “By providing easier and more useful access to information that is already collected, we believe law enforcement can better combat domestic violence in their jurisdictions.”
Federal stimulus dollars were used to enhance funding available through the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with DCJS receiving an additional $7.4 million to augment programs that serve domestic violence and sexual assault victims across New York State. In addition to using the funds to create the DIR repository, DCJS provided grants to 59 law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations to improve services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Police departments and sheriffs’ offices will continue to use hard-copy DIRs when their officers respond to calls for service, and will continue to mail copies of those reports to DCJS. Once received, DCJS staff will scan the reports and extract specific identifiers – names, addresses, addresses of incident locations and document numbers – that will be verified and then compiled into a secure electronic database.
Authorized users, such as police, prosecutors and dispatchers, will be able to search the electronic database by those specific identifiers, and will see every DIR associated with an individual or address, regardless of which agency filed the paper report.
For example, Albany police will be able to see if a DIR was filed in neighboring Colonie. Or, an assistant district attorney will be able to research whether an individual arrested for harassing his ex-girlfriend has been named as an offender, and his ex-girlfriend as the victim, on prior DIRs that didn’t result in an arrest.
“Since domestic violence incidents are usually part of a longer pattern of behavior, having a full and accurate history of the relationship is essential both for police to respond properly to situations, and for victims and advocates to document what has happened,” Executive Director Barasch said.
“Given that there are more than 550 police departments outside of New York City, having one centralized source of information to enhance collaboration across jurisdictions will go a long way to holding offenders accountable, and giving real force and effect to the laws we have on the books,” she added.
Added Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, who is president of the New York State District Attorneys’ Association: “This electronic repository will allow prosecutors to have a full and complete history of abuse, and will provide critical knowledge that will help protect victims and law enforcement officers who respond to these incidents.”
“Prosecutors will be able to build more compelling domestic violence cases by seeking to introduce information that previously was not readily tracked, showing the pattern of abuse and allowing victims to testify about the full breadth of the abuse they have had to endure,” District Attorney Hogan added.
Also in the search result, the name of each victim, offender and incident location would be “hot-linked,” allowing the user to see all DIRs connected to a victim, offender or address.
Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha, who is president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, said: “The DIR repository will be a great asset to law enforcement. This is another example of sharing of information by criminal justice agencies in New York State, which is critical in today’s world. I commend DCJS and the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence for this endeavor.”
A search of the DIR repository by incident address also can generate a summary of all DIR activity at that location, including the number of reports filed and if there are any “red flag” indicators, such as violence that occurred, threats that were made or whether there was access to weapons.
Dispatchers will be able to use that DIR history summary to advise responding officers of any potential threats so they can determine how to best staff and handle the call.
Port Washington Police Chief William Kilfoil, who is president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, added: “Domestic incidents are one of the most difficult calls for police. The availability of previous domestic incident reports will be a useful resource to assist police in identifying a history of violence, identifying the primary physical aggressor and ultimately to protect persons in domestic relationships.”
The repository will be developed by the end of 2010 and operational in early 2011.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) 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 (www.opdv.ny.gov) is charged with improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence. OPDV provides guidance to Executive level staff on policy and legislation; conducts statewide community outreach and public education programs; and trains professionals on addressing domestic violence in a wide array of disciplines, including child welfare, law enforcement, and health care.
OPDV also operates the state’s Domestic and Sexual Violence hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1-800-942-6906 (English and other languages) and 1-800-942-6908 (Spanish language).###