Number of murders up from 2009, AG Roy Cooper says
A total of 107 North Carolinians lost their lives in domestic violence murders in 2010, an increase from the previous year, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
“Domestic violence is a dangerous crime and can lead to deadly results,” Cooper said. “North Carolina has to work to get victims the help they need and to stop early signs of violence before people are seriously hurt and killed.”
Under a state law enacted in 2007, law enforcement agencies are required to report domestic violence related homicides yearly to the State Bureau of Investigation. This is the third year that statewide statistics have been reported.
Of the 2010 murders, 70 of the victims were female and 37 were male. The murders were committed by 96 male offenders and 11 female offenders.
Updated numbers available this week show that over the past three years law enforcement reported 99 domestic violence murders in 2009 and 137 domestic violence murders in 2008. (The numbers changed as law enforcement determined additional homicides to be domestic violence assaults).
Domestic violence remains a challenge for law enforcement, crisis care workers and communities across the state, Cooper said. For example, Davidson County has approximately one-third the population of neighboring Guilford County, but both had four domestic violence murders. Similarly, Harnett County had five domestic violence murders, the same number as nearby Wake County, which has approximately seven times more people.
The increase in domestic violence murders comes when the FBI’s preliminary crime statistics for 2010 show a 7.1 percent drop in murders across the country. Final statewide 2010 crime statistics for North Carolina will be available later this month.
“Law enforcement can tell you that domestic violence is often hidden, but can often be volatile and sudden,” Cooper said. “Here and across the state local communities are using creative approaches to try to stop domestic violence and end the bloodshed.”
Protective order alerts are issued through NC SAVAN, a program housed in the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety that helps victims of crime get custody status and court information about offenders. Pitt County houses a program that alerts victims of domestic violence when a protective order is served. Cooper would like to see the alerts made available statewide.
A protective order, also known as a 50B order after the relevant chapter of the NC General Statutes, is a court order put in place to restrain a defendant from further acts of domestic violence against a victim. These orders are often tailored to fit specific circumstances. According to domestic violence advocacy groups, protective orders are one of the best safety tools available to victims and should be considered in conjunction with an overall safety plan.
In addition to wider use of protective orders, another tool that could help protect domestic violence victims is requiring supervised probation for certain offenders. Right now, many domestic violence offenders who receive probation aren’t supervised. In addition, the legislature is considering a proposal that would direct probation officers and the courts to monitor offenders’ attendance at abuser treatment programs and make sure they obey the rules. In the 2010 statistics, law enforcement reported that nine of the 107 victims had taken out protective orders, and of those four were in place when the victims were murdered.
“Fewer domestic violence deaths are a hopeful sign, but we must continue to give victims the tools they need to escape abuse and stay safe,” Cooper said. “For example, our Address Confidentiality Program can be an important part of a domestic violence survivor’s safety plan.”
Cooper’s Address Confidentiality Program helps people who have escaped domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking keep their addresses shielded from abusers. Victims who move to escape abuse can join the program and have their first-class mail sent to an address chosen by the Attorney General's office. Mail is then forwarded to victims’ home addresses, which are kept secret. People can also use the substitute address to register to vote, get a driver license, or sign up for utilities like water and electricity.
People sign up for the program through local domestic violence shelters, sexual assault shelters and victim assistance centers. A total of 677 participants and their dependents are currently enrolled in the Address Confidentiality Program, which started in 2003.
The state Child Fatality Task Force and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence have also called for more training for those who handle domestic violence cases in the courts as well as domestic violence prevention training and protocols for educators in public schools, Cooper said.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Attorney General’s Office to track and maintain a database of domestic violence homicides in North Carolina,” said NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence co-director Beth Froehling. “We hope that by raising awareness of the deadliness of this crime that others will be saved. Our hearts go out to all of the families and friends of those who have lost a loved one to domestic violence.”