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1996 Clinic Violence Survey Report


Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement Response Diminished

Despite the increased responsiveness of federal officials to FACE violations, the 1996 Clinic Survey found clinics generally were less satisfied with local, state, and federal law enforcement response to clinic violence than they had been in 1995. Moreover, the data suggest that clinics may have had less interaction with all levels of law enforcement than they did in 1995.

Local law enforcement received the highest marks from clinics, but also experienced the largest decline of the three law enforcement levels in "excellent" ratings. Of the clinics in the survey, 34.6% reported "excellent" local law enforcement response to clinic violence, with 32.1% calling local law enforcement response "good," and 6.5% reporting "poor" response. But clinics were less pleased with the response of local officials than in 1995. In 1995, 43.9% of clinics characterized local law enforcement response as "excellent," 32.3% as "good," and 8.7% as "poor."

Clinic ratings of federal law enforcement response also showed a decline from 1995. In 1996, 16.7% of clinics reported federal law enforcement response had been "excellent," with 18.9% describing federal response as "good" and 6.7% saying response was "poor." Of the clinics surveyed in 1995, 20.3% reported "excellent" federal response, "31% "good," and 12.9% "poor."

State law enforcement officials continued to receive the lowest grades from clinics. State law enforcement response was described as "excellent" by only 13.5% of clinics, "good" by 17.0%, and "poor" by 4.8%. In 1995, 15.5% of clinics said state response was "excellent," 24.5% "good," and 8.1% "poor."

The decline in clinic characterizations of local, state, and federal government as "excellent" in part can be attributed to decreased interaction with these officials. At each level of law enforcement, descriptions of law enforcement response as "poor" did not increase. Instead, the percentage of clinics who were unable to describe local, state, and federal response to violence rose, suggesting a lack of interaction with respective law enforcement officials. Of the clinics surveyed in 1996, 26.6% responded "don't know" to questions about local law enforcement response; 64.7% of clinics were unsure about state law enforcement response, and 58.0% did not know about federal law enforcement response. The percentage of clinics indicating "don’t know" in 1995 was 15% for local law enforcement response, 51.9% for state law enforcement response, and 35.8% for federal law enforcement response.

To further gauge changes in law enforcement response over time, respondents also were asked to compare law enforcement response at their clinics in 1996 with 1995 response levels. Using this measurement, the majority of clinics felt that the response of law enforcement on all levels had remained the same. Of the clinics surveyed, 66% felt local law enforcement response had "remained the same" since 1995, with 55.8% saying federal law enforcement response had not changed and 56.1% reporting no change in state law enforcement response. Survey respondents reported that the most improvement in law enforcement response had occurred at the local level. Of the clinics, 11.9% said local law enforcement response had "improved," compared with 8.7% of clinics which reported federal law enforcement had improved and 6.4% which credited state law enforcement with improved response.

In another important measure of law enforcement response, the clinic survey revealed a slight increase in arrests for anti-abortion violence. Of the clinics surveyed, 15.7% (49) reported arrests made as a result of violence committed at clinics. Of the 49 clinics, 39 clinics reported arrests for misdemeanor offenses, 4 for felony offenses, and 6 for both misdemeanors and felonies. This arrest rate represents a slight increase from 1995, when 13.8% of clinics reported arrests for violence at clinics.

Ten clinics reported arrests as a result of violent acts committed at locations away from clinic facilities. Misdemeanor arrests were reported by eight of these clinics, and combined misdemeanor and felony arrests by 2 clinics.

At the same time that arrests increased slightly, the percentage of clinics reporting that charges had been filed after the arrests decreased. Of the clinics reporting misdemeanor arrests for violence at clinics, 25.6% said charges were filed in all cases and another 5.1% in some, but not all cases. In 1995, 33.3% of clinics that reported misdemeanor arrests for violence at clinics said charges had been filed. Of those clinics reporting misdemeanor arrests for violence at other locations, 42.9% told us the arrests had resulted in charges in all cases and another 14.3% in some, but not all cases. Felony arrests for violence at clinic facilities resulted in charges being filed. Of the clinics which reported combined felony and misdemeanor arrests, 66.7% said charges had been filed for violence at clinics in all cases, with another 16.7% in some, but not all cases. The two clinics which reported arrests for combined misdemeanor and felony offenses for violence away from the clinics said charges had been filed in all cases.