New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Our Town New Bill Targets Domestic Violence by Emily Higginbotham

New Bill Targets Domestic Violence

In response to an increase in domestic violence offenses in the city — despite a drop in most other crimes — a bill has been introduced to the City Council that aims to make government handling of these cases more transparent.

Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the Fifth District, penned the legislation that would mandate the New York Police Department and the city’s District Attorneys to publicly report on each instance of domestic violence, from the initial incident through the final resolution.

“As this administration boasts that crime is at an all-time low, domestic violence-related crimes are increasing,” Kallos said in an interview. “I don’t think that the city has a handle on the problem. With all of the effort that’s going into Vision Zero to keep people safe on the streets, I would love to see a similar effort to keep people safe in their homes.”

A Spotlight on Every Case

Since 1990, according to data from the NYPD, violent crimes have declined by 75 percent. However, in the last 10 years, domestic violence — which New York defines as offenses by and against members of the same family, household and person who are in or have been involved in an intimate relationship — has risen dramatically. In 2007, as noted in a 2017 report from the city’s domestic violence task force, 4.8 percent of all major crimes were related to domestic violence. By 2016, that number had reached 11.6 percent. Now, citywide, domestic violence accounts for one in every five homicides and two in every five reported assaults.

As a way forward, Kallos’ bill aims to put a spotlight on survivor outcomes by making the government’s handling of domestic violence cases public at each point of the process.

If the legislation is enacted, the NYPD will be mandated to report police action taken when informed about a domestic violence incident, the number of reports and allegations the department receives and how many suspects are arrested in these cases. Additionally, police will be mandated to report on the effectiveness of orders of protections granted to survivors, specifically how many are violated, result in an injury, hospitalization, or death.

The District Attorney’s offices would likewise be required to share outcomes of the cases in which they get involved, including how many attorneys are assigned to these cases, the size of their respective caseloads, as well as the number of charges brought and dropped. The office would also need to provide information about convictions, dismissals and pleas made as alternatives to incarceration.

Details about the impact on individuals who suffer domestic violence, specifically injuries, hospitalization or death, would also be included in these reports. The NYPD and District Attorney would post the numbers to their respective websites.

“I don’t think there has been particular attention paid to outcomes for survivors of domestic violence,” Kallos said. “I believe that if the NYPD and District Attorneys know that they’re going to have to report on how they are dealing with domestic violence on a case-by-case basis that they will hopefully pay more attention to these cases which I think are fairly important.”

A Survivor on the City Council

Council Members Diana Ayala and Keith Powers, each representing parts of Manhattan’s east side, are co-sponsors of Kallos’ bill.

“As a survivor of domestic violence, I am proud to join Council Member Kallos in introducing legislation that will strengthen domestic violence reporting,” said Ayala. “Having comprehensive data from the NYPD and District Attorneys that is publicly available will empower both policymakers and social service providers to craft solutions that center on the lives of survivors.”

While the three officials hope to speak about the bill during October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a study examining the association between firearm ownership and domestic violence homicides has Kallos thinking he should amend his legislation.

The study, published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that a higher rate of gun ownership is linked to a higher rate of domestic violence homicide in the United States. The same association, according to the study, cannot be made between gun ownership and other types of homicide, including those involving acquaintances and strangers.

“The study ... gives me pause that we should include in this legislation what types of injuries or deaths involve gun violence,” Kallos said.

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