One in Five Homicides in New York City from Domestic Violence;
Council Bill Sheds Light on Underreporting and Policy Failures Leading to Injuries and Deaths
NEW YORK, NY—Domestic violence now accounts for one in every five homicides and two in every five reported assaults in New York City. Domestic violence crimes are one of the most underreported crimes in this country with reporting rates of less than 30 percent. As New York City touts some lower crime numbers such as murder rates, domestic violence offenses like rape have actually increased despite underreporting.
Information relating to how government is responding to domestic violence has remained in the shadows but would be reported from first incidents through final resolutions under Introduction 1638-2019 authored by Council Members Ben Kallos and cosponsored by Diana Ayala and Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee Keith Powers. The bill mandates the New York Police Department and District Attorneys to report publicly on their websites on:
- Survivor Outcomes – Final resolution for individuals who suffered domestic violence once police and district attorney are involved, specifically how many are injured, hospitalized, or killed.
- Police Response – What the NYPD does when they are informed about a domestic violence incident, the number of reports filed and allegations made, and how many suspects get arrested.
- Strength of Protections – Effectiveness of orders of protection, specifically how many are violated resulting in injury, hospitalization, or death.
- District Attorney Resources and Prosecutions – The number of District Attorneys assigned to Domestic Violence along with their caseloads as well as charges brought and cases dropped.
- Alternatives to Incarceration through Pleas, Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACDs), Convictions, and Dismissals – If convicted individuals were offered conditional discharge, required to complete any form of mandated training course to address behavior, sentenced to probation or sentenced to jail time and sentences.
- Recidivism of Domestic Violence – Prior domestic violence charges and convictions for defendants.
“New Yorkers should be safe from violence in their homes and places of work, whether from strangers or intimate partners. I never want another person to die from domestic violence let alone the horrifying rate of one in five homicides,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.
“As a survivor of domestic violence, I am proud to join Council Member Kallos in introducing legislation that will strengthen domestic violence reporting. 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 the lives of survivors,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.
“Anyone reporting domestic violence should know that change will come as a result. I am proud to support Council Member Kallos’ legislation to require the NYPD and District Attorneys to provide transparent reports of these crimes to the public, empowering policymakers to better address the rise in domestic abuse,” said Council Member Keith Powers.
“The Voices of Women strongly supports Council Member Kallos' efforts to increase transparency within domestic violence reporting. This bill will allow us to have a clear picture of how New York City responds to domestic violence. Then we can effectively address systemic breakdowns and expand programs that help survivors and their children. We are happy to join with Council Member Kallos in support of domestic violence reporting transparency,” said Raquel Singh, Executive Director of Voices of Women (VOW).
The NYPD adheres to the New York state definition of domestic violence which is broader and goes hand in hand with criteria listed in the Expanded Access to Family Court Law of New York. Domestic violence refers to offenses committed by and against members of the same family, household and persons who are or have been in an intimate relationship. Current law includes “persons who are or have been in an intimate relationship, even if they have never lived together, or were never related by blood or marriage, or never had a child in common. This includes heterosexual or same-sex dating couples, including adolescents and teens.
In direct contrast, the District Attorney offices have adopted a much narrower definition of domestic violence that only includes crimes between members of any current or former intimate relationship, regardless of the gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or marital or cohabitation status of either person involved. The District Attorneys’ requirement for an “intimate” relationship for domestic violence cases to be prosecuted as such leaves out the rest of the cases where violence occurred between people living in the same home. The City does not know how these cases were prosecuted despite the NYPD classifying them as domestic violence.
Domestic Violence can take many forms. Stalking and harassment are crimes where a person uses power and control over their victims to place that person in reasonable fear for their own safety. These crimes are common in domestic violence cases and are crimes that are severely underreported. Data from the National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) demonstrate that, in the United States, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking at some point in their lives. In New York City, the general prevalence of stalking is less well known. From 2013-2018, the NYPD recorded 3,507 stalking arrests, of which 64% (2,242) were domestic violence stalking arrests, and domestic violence stalking arrests have increased 73% between 2013 and 2018.
This is a troubling trend. Even more troubling is the larger universe of domestic abuse that goes unreported every year. A leading national study found that 5.4% of individuals in the United States over the age of 18 are victims of rape, physical assault or stalking by an intimate partner annually. If this rate holds true here in New York City, then nearly 352,000.7 New Yorkers are victimized by an intimate partner every year, substantially more than the number of intimate partner violence complaints made to police.