Friday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of a task force to combat domestic violence within the city.
The task force, headed by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neil and First Lady Chirland McCray, will focus on making it easier for victims to report their abusers, increasing the conviction rates of abusers, and discouraging repeat offenders.
While the New York City homicide rate has decreased by 50% in 15 years, law enforcement has not seen a similar decline in intimate partner and family violence. In fact, domestic violence now accounts for 1 in 5 homicides within the city. The New York Police Department receives about 1 report of domestic violence every 2 minutes.
The task force hopes to raise the 33% conviction rate of violent abusers. Judge Harris Kluger, former state judge and executive director of Sanctuary for Families, says that domestic violence cases are frequently dismissed because the victim refuses to testify in front of her abuser in court. Judge Kluger suggests that the state can increase conviction rates by practicing “evidence-based prosecution” and try an abuser without the victim’s testimony.
Many domestic violence victims do not report their abusers for fear of retaliation, mistrust of law enforcement, or fear of losing housing or financial security. The city has been working hard to try to alleviate some of these concerns.
In July, the New York City Council updated and strengthened the New York City Human Rights Laws to protect domestic violence victims from housing discrimination. It is now illegal for landlords and housing authorities to evict or deny housing applications on the basis of domestic violence victimization. In addition, victims are now allowed to terminate their leases if they feel they are living in unsafe situations.
Research has found that children of abusive parents are more likely to become an abuser or a victim. The task force also hope to end the cycle of violence by intervening with at risk youth.