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1997 Clinic Violence Survey Report



Clinic ratings of law enforcement response to clinic violence declined slightly for the second consecutive year. Fewer clinics rated local and state enforcement response as "excellent" than in the previous two years. Federal law enforcement excellent ratings remained constant.

In 1997, 31.6% of clinics rated local law enforcement response as "excellent," compared to 34.6% in 1996. The percentage of clinics rating state law enforcement response as "excellent" also declined in 1997, with 8.3% of clinics characterizing state response as "excellent" in 1997 compared with 13.5% in 1996. "Excellent" ratings were given by 16.8% of clinics to federal law enforcement response in 1997; federal law enforcement response received "excellent" ratings from 16.7% of clinics in 1996. (See Chart 8.)

Chart 8

The decline in the proportion of clinics describing law enforcement response as "excellent" did not for the most part produce a concomitant increase in ratings of law enforcement as "poor." (See Chart 9.) A slight increase in the percentage of clinics calling local law enforcement response poor did occur, with 8.3% of clinics in 1997 recording "poor" local law enforcement response compared with only 6.5% of clinics reporting local law enforcement response as "poor" in 1996. But fewer clinics designated state and federal law enforcement response as poor in 1997 than in previous years. Poor ratings for federal law enforcement declined from 6.7% in 1996 to 4.7% in 1997 and for state law enforcement from 4.8% in 1996 to 4.1% in 1997.

Chart 9

The slight decline in "excellent" ratings may in part stem from decreases in clinic violence in 1996 and 1997 which have reduced the percentage of clinics in contact with law enforcement at all levels. Substantial numbers of clinics indicated "don't know" when asked about law enforcement response in 1996 and 1997. In 1997, 38.3% of clinics reported "don't know" when asked to rate local law enforcement response, 75.5% when asked about state law enforcement response, and 61.4% when asked to evaluate federal law enforcement response.

An analysis of the law enforcement response "don't knows" in the 1997 data confirmed that clinics reporting no violence less likely to be able to characterize law enforcement response. A higher proportion of clinics which indicated "don't know" to questions about law enforcement response did not experience any violence in 1997 than were represented in the overall sample of clinics. Of those clinics who said they "don't know" about local law enforcement response, 83.8% had no violence. Of the clinics which said "don't know" when asked about state law enforcement response, 65.2% reported no violence; 71.2% of clinics who said they did not know about federal law enforcement response also reported no violence. Only 61.1% of clinics in the overall sample did not experience violence.

Arrest levels are a second indication of law enforcement response to clinic violence. Fewer clinics reported arrests for violence committed at clinic facilities in 1997 than in 1996. Of the clinics in the survey, 11.5% reported anti-abortion arrests for these crimes, compared with 15.7% in 1996. Of the 39 clinics noting arrests for violence at clinics in 1997, 31 reported misdemeanor arrests only, 2 reported felony arrests only, and 6 reported both felony and misdemeanor arrests.

The same percentage of clinics reported arrests for anti-abortion offenses away from clinic facilities in 1997 as did in 1996. The percentage of clinics reporting arrests for these crimes was 2.8% in 1996 and 2.7% of clinics in 1997. Misdemeanor only arrests were made at 5 clinics, felony arrests at 3, and one clinic reported both misdemeanor and felony arrests for violence that happened away from the clinics.

Nineteen clinics (5.6%) in the overall sample said criminal charges were filed against anti-abortion violators in 1997. Sixteen clinics (4.7%) reported criminal prosecutions for anti-abortion violence.

Another measure of changes in law enforcement response to clinic violence suggests that local, state, and federal law enforcement response improved slightly in 1997. Local law enforcement received the greatest net gain in response ratings. Eight percent of clinics in the sample said local law enforcement response had improved, compared with 2.7% which said local response had declined. Of the clinics, 5.3% said federal law enforcement response had improved, while 2.7% reported that response at this level had declined. Approximately the same percentage of clinics told us state law enforcement response had improved (2.9%) as told us that state response had declined (2.7%). Most clinics said that local, state, and federal law enforcement response had remained the same.