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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative (OFDVI) represents the first time a law enforcement agency applied the focused deterrence strategy to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). For years, many in the law enforcement profession believed that IPV was an issue that could not be prevented, with offenders who could not be deterred. Because of this belief, most strategies revolved around services to victims that largely consisted of avoiding patterns of abuse or leaving abusive relationships. While these strategies included an important piece of the problem of IPV—providing services to victims—little had been done to hold offenders accountable. Mandatory arrest strategies had short-term success, but were largely unsustainable.
The High Point (North Carolina) Police Department (HPPD) worked together with the National Network for Safe Communities to implement a collaborative strategy aimed at holding offenders accountable, while still providing a high level of support services for victims. Partnering with Family Service of the Piedmont (advocates), the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office (prosecutors), High Point Community Against Violence (offender services), and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (researchers), the HPPD led this innovative strategy. The strategy has six goals:
Ten years of offender data research showed the typical IPV offender had arrest histories for many different crimes, not exclusively IPV. These histories give police and prosecutors leverage on offenders exposed to the criminal justice system. With knowledge of each offender’s history, police are able to notify the offender face-to-face of his or her presumptive sentences if convicted, forcing the offender to make a rational decision about future behavior. This face-to-face notification also sheds the cloak of anonymity that the offender once operated under. A special sanction regime exists for abusers who re-offend after this notification.
While law enforcement is notifying the offenders, High Point Community Against Violence is also offering a variety of services to the victims. Each victim is given a list of resources and a letter from the Chief of Police, Lieutenant of the Violent Crimes Unit, and Director of Victim Services. The message to the victim emphasizes that domestic violence is a crime taken seriously and the offender is the person responsible for the violence. Advocates, such as the Family Service of the Piedmont, also offer additional services to victims.
After over five years of full implementation, High Point has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of homicides resulting from IPV. Injuries to victims, calls for service, and arrests have also seen significant reductions. Most notably, however, might be the fact that after notification, only 16 percent of offenders have committed another IPV offense throughout the five-plus years of implementation. This low re-offense rate indicates that what was previously believed about IPV—that the violence could not be prevented and the offenders could not be deterred—is, in fact, a myth.
To read more about the HPPD, OFDVI, and the evaluation, visit https://ncnsc.uncg.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/COPS-OFDVI-Lexington-High-Point-Evaluation-FINAL.pdf.
Captain, Major Crimes Section
High Point Police Department
Senior Program Specialist
The COPS Office
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