Noise and Crime: A Link Too Often Ignored

The failure to enforce municipal noise ordinances can create an environment that encourages lawbreaking, and can sometimes mean that police miss criminal behavior, warns an expert who specializes in the impact of noise on public health.

According to a report issued last month by New York City Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the New York Police Department (NYPD) investigated some 1.3 million complaints about noise between 2010 and 2015—but they resulted in just 5,482 NYPD summons.

The discrepancy needs a closer look.

Noise ranks high on the list of New York City complaints—and as in many other cities it can be an indicator of criminal problems or behavior that requires police action.

Nearly 30 years ago, Carmine Santa Maria and I published an article in John Jay College’s Law Enforcement News journal focusing on noise and crime. The headline on the front page of that issue underlined our argument: “Forum: Police have a big role to play in curing one of America’s foremost stressors—noise pollution.”

After discussing the adverse impacts of noise on health, and citing some cases where noises in apartments may be clues to abuse of family members taking place in those apartments, we pointed out that not enforcing noise ordinances creates an environment that encourages lawbreaking.

Our article called for greater involvement of police officers in the reduction of noise in New York City.  In fact, after this article was published I worked with New York City police on ways to resolve noise complaints, and I also spoke with new police officers about the hazards of noise and what actions could be taken to curb noise.

According to the Comptroller’s report, “Silencing Excessive NYC Noise a Major Challenge,” the majority of the noise complaints in the five-year period covered by the analysis were handled by the NYPD and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

A survey of New Yorkers, also noted in this report, found that 92 percent of the respondents reported the noise complaint recurred and 83 percent were dissatisfied with how the complaint was handled.

Comptroller DiNapoli commented that both the NYPD and DEP have limited resources to respond to noise complaints quickly.

In a preliminary discussion with several community affairs police officers, I have learned that police precincts have already explored why large numbers of complaints have yielded few resolutions as indicated by the DiNapoli report.

Too often, the noise has abated when police officers arrive at apartments or business establishments, or the sounds are not as offensive to the officers as they are to the complainants.

I have also been told that many of the complaints are made by the same person over and over again and that accounts for the high numbers of complaints. The DiNapoli report indicated that the NYPD has assigned Neighborhood Coordination Officers to mediate these repeat complaints and to document resolutions to these complaints which they are to send regularly to borough commanders.

It appears that NYPD has examined potential explanations for why summonses issued are low and complaint numbers very high.  The NYPD is also logging data on how repeated complaints are resolved.

Nevertheless, in light of the DiNapoli report, one would also like to know how officers are instructed to respond to noise complaints, whether they employ objective tools to assess levels of noise, and how informed they are about the dangers of noise to health and well-being—as well as the potential link between noise and crime.

Noise complaints may be a clue to what else is going on in an apartment.  It could be the beating of a child or spouse or older person.  Drug dealing and prostitution also can elicit noises within buildings.

Here’s one example.

Several years ago, in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn NY, an elderly woman complained about noise from an apartment above hers in a small rental building.  Late at night, there were people running up and down the stairs to the apartment above, and a car parked in front of her apartment played loud music with occasional horn honking.

After speaking with her caretaker and learning that they were dealing drugs upstairs, I contacted local precinct.  The police investigated and the individuals were removed from the apartment.  The landlord called to thank me, and to say he would address any problems the woman had in her apartment promptly.

Arline Bronzaft

Arline Bronzaft

New York City is not the only major city in our country besieged by noise issues.

While it is true that many US cities have noise ordinances, and citizens are directed to contact police departments and other appropriate city agencies with their noise complaints, I’m not familiar with any study comparable to the DiNapoli report that has assessed how successfully noise complaints have been resolved in these cities.

Citizens across the country have contacted me at GrowNYC to assist them with noise complaints. I invite you to send me a note at our website or comment on this essay to tell me how your city is measuring up, and of course I stand ready to assist the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies in addressing a problem that has too often been ignored.

Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D. , Professor Emerita, Lehman College, CUNY, serves on the Board of GrowNYC and is the co-author of “Why Noise Matters” (written with four British colleagues). Her research and writings on the effects of noise on mental and physical health are included in edited books and encyclopedias, academic journals and more popular magazines. She serves as an expert witness on noise impacts on health in the US and abroad. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

White House Changes Porter Story After FBI Testimony

Former White House staff secretary was allowed to remain in his top job long after his colleagues had been told about spousal abuse allegations from his two former wives. FBI director Christopher Wray’s account differed from the one offered by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The White House changed its story on Tuesday on how it handled allegations of spousal abuse against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who quit in disgrace last week. Officials conceded that the FBI told White House career officials last summer about problems in Porter’s background check. Ttop advisers in the West Wing were kept in the dark. The White House revised its version of events after testimony by FBI director, Christopher Wray, contradicted earlier and shifting White House claims, the New York Times reports. Wray said the FBI had given the White House final results in January of its background investigation on Porter. That account was directly at odds with assertions by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said Porter’s background check was still underway when the domestic violence abuse allegations from his two former wives came to light last week in news reports.

Wray’s words suggested that Porter, who had been given an interim security clearance, was allowed to continue serving in his influential post long after officials had received word of the troublesome accusations. Wray’s testimony raised questions about the credibility of Trump’s most senior advisers and the degree of tolerance they may have shown to a colleague apparently eager to cover up a past. Wray said the FBI updated the White House three times in 2017 — in March, July and November — about Porter’s background check as it progressed. Sanders insisted that senior West Wing officials had not learned about the allegations against Porter until they surfaced in The Daily Mail because the FBI gave the information to the White House Personnel Security Office, which handles security clearances.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Domestic Violence Called ‘Latest Battleground’ in Tribal Justice

Since the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, non-Native Americans can be brought to tribal courts in domestic violence cases. But attorneys still face a minefield of jurisdictional issues, according to a study in the Winter 2018 issue of Criminal Justice.

Tribal courts are the “latest battleground” for reforming the way domestic violence cases are handled in Indian Country, a new study says.

The study, published in the Winter 2018 issue of Criminal Justice, examines the jurisdictional issues relating to criminal law and Native Americans in the aftermath of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), specifically in the handling of domestic violence cases involving non-Native Americans in tribal courts.

The 2013 amended version of VAWA gives tribal courts enhanced jurisdiction over criminal cases brought by tribes against nonmembers, including non-Native Americans. Yet Congress’s recognition of tribal criminal jurisdiction is accompanied by limitations and sets obligations on tribes.

Tribes that want to make use of VAWA’s jurisdictional provisions may be required to amend tribal law, and hire new judges and public defenders.

The article summarizes the limitations of the enhanced jurisdiction under VAWA according to types of offenses, types of defendants, types of victims, and procedural safeguards. For instance, non-native defendants in VAWA cases can only be prosecuted in tribal cases if they have one of the three following connections to the tribe’s reservation or lands:

  • They reside in Indian Country;
  • They’re employed in Indian country; or
  • They are “the spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of an Indian living in Indian country or a tribal member.”

In February 2013, the Justice Department announced a pilot program giving three tribes jurisdiction over non-Native Americans in domestic violence cases that occur on their reservations.

Since 2015, another ten tribes were granted the same special domestic violence jurisdiction over non-Native Americans in tribal territory. Beginning in February, 2014 the original three jurisdictions began to put into practice their new strengthened jurisdiction.

Most likely, all of the courts approved in the pilot program will commence prosecuting cases shortly, if they haven’t already.

“It is extremely likely that many more tribes will soon adopt the enhanced VAWA domestic violence jurisdiction,” the paper said.

“Attorneys wishing to appear in tribal courts must be admitted to practice in those courts, which have their own rules for admission.”

Some tribes have their own bar exams, including two tribes currently applying the special domestic violence jurisdiction. Attorneys who appear in tribal courts shouldn’t anticipate the applicable rules of evidence or civil procedure of state or federal courts to be applicable in tribal court. Tribal courts have their own rules, procedures, and practices.

The paper concludes with the author admonishing attorneys to thoroughly prepare in advance before entering tribal courts in any domestic violence case.

Sexual violence continues to be an epidemic in tribal territory and until it subsides Indian nations will act vigilantly to protect their people and work toward a solution, the study said.

“Attorneys, as always, will be on the frontlines,” it added.

The paper was written by James D. Diamond, director of the Tribal Justice Clinic and professor of practice at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

The complete study can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern John Ramsey. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Domestic Violence Soared Following Puerto Rico Hurricane

Almost six months after Hurricane Maria, residents are still suffering from the breakdown of an already-troubled justice system, aggravated by a police walkout and a rise in domestic violence calls, according to the latest episode of John Jay College’s “Criminal Justice Matters” program. Experts said the island’s problems serve as a warning for other communities where climate change increases the risk and frequency of weather catastrophes.

Almost six months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, residents continue to suffer from the breakdown of a criminal justice system that was already in crisis because of funding shortfalls.

One key indicator of the “chaotic” state of the island’s infrastructure is a fourfold increase in the number of domestic violence calls in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 20 storm, according to John Jay College Professor Jodie Roure, who works with human rights and women’s organizations there.

Roure cited unofficial figures showing the number of 911 calls relating to domestic violence skyrocketed from 211 in the immediate aftermath of the storm to 889 the following month—with some 1,747 calls received through November, 2017.

“These are astronomical numbers,” Roure said in an interview on CUNY-TV’s “Criminal Justice Matters” that will be aired next week, adding that “the lack of access to food and electricity has exacerbated stress” in many families hit hardest by the storm, and contributed as well to a number of “murder-suicides” related to domestic conflicts.

Roure joined William Ramirez, director of the American Civil Liberties Union branch on the island, who noted earlier in the program that the destruction of many police stations and courts—particularly in remote mountain towns—and a walkout by police to protest the lack of overtime pay threatened authorities’ ability to cope with an increase in security threats, such as “bands of criminals” looting houses and stores.

“Public safety is compromised and crime is up,” he declared. “(But) Maria unmasked the ‘human crisis’ that has been growing for a while, related to our bankruptcy and insolvency.”

William Ramirez

William Ramirez. Photo courtesy Criminal Justice Matters.

Even as some infrastructure services, like electricity and communications, have begun to normalize, Puerto Rico still faces a long uphill struggle to rebuild its justice system at a time when the island’s financial crisis is far from solved.

Both Ramirez and Roure told Criminal Justice Matters host Stephen Handelman, editor of The Crime Report, that the chaotic conditions experienced by the island’s post-hurricane justice system served as a warning lesson for communities who might face similar problems in future natural catastrophes.

Many police stations were destroyed. Courts followed unpredictable schedules leaving many detained suspects waiting for trials that might never happen. And strict curfews put at risk even law-abiding residents, many of whom were victimized by racial profiling, Ramirez said.

He cited one example of a black employee of a power company who was arrested for breaking curfew even though he was assigned to repair downed electricity lines.

While similar problems were experienced in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Houston following the flooding left by Hurricane Harvey last August, Puerto Rico was particularly hard hit because so many residents were stranded in remote areas without communication, power, roads, or police protection, Ramirez said.

Added Roure: “With any natural disaster, globally, considering climate change, we’re going to be seeing this increasingly.”

Jodie Roure

CJM Host Stephen Handelman and Jodie Roure.

Focusing on the problem of domestic abuse, Roure said women’s organizations on the island had begun to mobilize to train shelter workers to deal with the traumatic impact of disasters on families—and develop plans to address even apparently minor details such as ensuring shelters were protected.

“Shelters (on the island) were full, but many fences were down and they weren’t secure,” she said, making them easy targets for angry spouses—particularly when the lack of telephone communication effectively prevented shelter workers from calling police for help.

The complete episode of Criminal Justice Matters, a joint production of CUNY-TV and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, will be aired in the New York metropolitan region Feb. 6 and Feb. 7—and repeated on the weekend of Feb. 10-11. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Native American, Rural Women Hit Hardest by Opioid Crisis, Experts Say

The high rates of opioid addiction for females in America’s rural and tribal areas are exacerbated by intimate partner violence and the lack of access to treatment, advocates and caregivers told a webinar Thursday.

Native American females and women in rural communities suffer the highest risk of deaths from opioids and other drugs, advocates and caregivers involved in mental health and trauma said Thursday.

The risk is heightened for Native American women, who face a long history of oppression and abuse, turning to opioids as a form of pain management, and for women in rural areas, who have limited access to drug treatment programs, the experts said at a webinar organized by the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health.

Researchers found that more than 84 percent of Alaska Native and American Indian women had experienced some form of violence in their lifetimes: 56 percent experienced sexual violence and 55 percent experienced intimate partner violence, according to a study released by the National Institute of Justice in 2016.

In some villages, 100 percent of women experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, the webinar told.

Indigenous women also face a long history of genocide, removal from their land, removal of their children into state custody, and loss of culture and language- all factors that play into the high rates of opioid deaths, said Gwendolyn Packard, a specialist at The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC).

“We experienced a period of forced removal of our children. [Society] placed them in institutions in an effort to civilize the savage born. Even today we experience the highest rate of children in state custody” she continued.

“This left many families psychologically battered.”

Opioids can also lead Native American women into the grasp of sex traffickers, who prey on their drug dependency to maintain control.

Sarah Deer, attorney and author of “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America” refers to this vulnerable community as ‘the perfect population.’

“If you’re a trafficker looking for the perfect population of people to violate, Native American women would be a prime target. You have poverty. You have people who have been traumatized. And you have a legal system that doesn’t step in to stop it.”

In an attempt to fight back, the Cherokee Nation has filed a lawsuit against pharmaceuticals companies for negligent conduct. Tribes are seeking monetary damages to pay for treatment programs, which are scarce.

Still, generations of trauma and abuse has left a scar on Native American populations, who are searching for the best way to tackle the epidemic within the tribes. 

“There is common agreement that the country is rooted in historical and generational trauma” said a tribe member at an opioid hearing, reported on by the webinar.

“There is also agreement that as a tribe we are strong and resilient and can create and support in order to heal the next generation.”

While women in rural areas suffer from domestic abuse as well, they face unique difficulties accessing treatment due to their geography.

For instance, in some parts of West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the nation, there is no cell phone or internet connection. West Virginia is the only state that lies completely within the Appalachian mountain region, which greatly affects telecommunication.

But the biggest issue is the the lack of local treatment or effective treatment close by. It may take opioid users 2 to 3 hours to arrive at a local clinic- that is, if they have access to a car.

There is also no public transportation, leaving some addicts stranded in the countryside.

Often times, for women, the vehicle owner is the batterer who controls where and when his victim takes the car, added Laurie Thompsen, a Mental Health and Behavioral Health Coordinator in West Virginia.

In attempt to maintain power and control, abusers may restrict their partners from getting treatment, and instead fuel their drug addiction by leaving paraphernalia around the house and forcing them to use drugs.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that 60 percent of women said their partner or ex-partner tried to prevent our discourage them from getting help, while 27 percent said they were pressured or forced to use alcohol or other drugs more than they wanted.

If admitted to a treatment center, there is also the possibility the batterer and the victim will be in the same drug program.

“Safety is a big issue” said Thompsen, who recalled a story about a husband who checked himself into a mental health hospital to stalk and follow his wife.

“These situations occur because we don’t have many services.”

Editor’s Note: The Webinar proceedings will be available online. Please check here for update.

Megan Hadley is a staff writer at The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Do Orders of Protection Actually Shield Victims?

It’s easy to see why the victims of domestic violence may see getting protective orders as a waste of time. But although there are limits to the protections such orders offer, they’re still valuable tools that can help keep victims safe, writes TCR’s legal affairs columnist.

In December, 2017, Madonna McGuire was killed in her Florida home by her estranged husband, who then killed himself.

Shaekeya Gay was shot to death in August 2017 outside her job in North Carolina by her estranged boyfriend of two years, with whom she’d lived. He’s now facing charges for her murder.

In June 2016, Stephanie Goodloe was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in the bedroom of her home in Washington, DC. He was arrested and charged with murder.

Cassie Wagner was murdered in Oregon in September 2014 by her ex-boyfriend of 11 years.

Aside from being examples of incidents of domestic violence that ended tragically, the above situations have another fact in common: In each case, the victim had a protective order against the man who ultimately ended her life.

So, if you were an abused woman and read these kinds of stories, would you even bother getting such an order against your abuser?

It’s easy to see why the victims of domestic violence may see getting protective orders as a waste of time. But although there are limits to the protections such orders offer, they’re still valuable tools that can help keep victims safe.

Protective orders—also called orders of protection or restraining orders, depending on the jurisdiction—are intended to restrain the person to which they’re issued from harassing, attacking, stalking, threatening, contacting or coming near the target of the abuse as well as her home, workplace, school, etc. These orders can also extend such protections to children and even pets in some cases and states.

Although domestic violence cases stereotypically involve spouses, most states permit the issuance of protective orders in cases involving various types of close relationships.

For example, according to WomensLaw.org, in California, you can file for a domestic violence restraining order if you or your minor child have been the victims of domestic violence from:

  • A spouse or former spouse;
  • A person you’re dating or used to date, including a same-sex partner;
  • The mother or father of your child;
  • A person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption (such as a mother, father, child, brother, sister, grandparent or in-law); and
  • A person who regularly lives or used to live in your home.

There are both criminal and civil protective orders. To get an order against an abuser, you may need to have a pending case involving that individual in either criminal or civil court, such as an open assault case or child custody dispute. In other words, a judge often can’t just issue you a protective order in a vacuum—the order may need to be connected to an existing court case. (Emergency restraining orders are an exception to that general rule.)

Temporary protective orders typically last for the period of time between court dates on the related case and may need to be renewed at each subsequent court appearance. In some instances, an emergency order may only be in effect until a full hearing can be held on the need for such an order.

When the underlying case is resolved with, say, a guilty plea or a settlement, the court may issue the victim a final or permanent protective order. However, even so-called “permanent” orders aren’t usually permanent.

For instance, in New York, a final order of protection will often be granted for up to two years. But if the judge determines that one or more “aggravating circumstances” exist, such as the abuser’s use of a weapon, the order may be issued for up to five years. Note that some states, such as Florida, do permit the issuance of final protective orders without an expiration date.

Protective orders aren’t a cure-all. First, the orders typically bar the abuser from doing things that are already illegal, such as assaulting or harassing the victim, so they’re redundant in that respect.

Second, protective orders are only effective if the abuser feels compelled to comply with them. When such orders are issued in relation to a criminal case, the abuser has already shown a willingness to violate the law. Thus, it may be unreasonable to expect him to feel bound to comply with the terms of a piece of paper.

Third, the fact that the penalties for violations of protective orders aren’t that harsh—and are usually much less severe than the penalties for any abusive behavior—weakens their effectiveness as a deterrent of such behavior.

For example, at least two other women had filed for protective orders against Cassie Wagner’s ex-boyfriend, claiming similar threats or abuse at his hands. But when he violated Wagner’s order, he merely got probation. And 40 days after she became the third woman issued a protective order against him, she was dead.

Lastly, getting a protective order can sometimes make a bad situation worse by actually triggering a violent reaction by the abuser, especially if he’s surprised by the request.

(Note that research shows that if an abuser has a firearm, the likelihood of a fatality increases dramatically. Under the federal Violence Against Women Act, individuals who are the subject of a qualifying domestic violence protective order are barred from possessing firearms. However, enforcement of that ban has proved challenging—and is a topic that’s too complex for the scope of this article.)

Despite the above issues, victims of domestic violence should at least consider getting a protective order, says Susan Keilitz, JD, Principal Court Research Consultant at the National Center for State Courts and an expert on civil protection orders.

Several studies have found that despite the aforementioned issues, protective orders are effective.

For example, a 2004 study of 150 urban, abused women who applied for a two-year protection order against an intimate partner found significant reductions in threats of assault, physical assault, stalking and workplace harassment during the subsequent 18 months—even if the woman wasn’t ultimately granted the protection order.

The researchers concluded that the protection order was essentially an announcement that the abused woman refused to “take it” anymore and was acting on her own behalf. So, once a woman applied and qualified for a protection order, “a rapid and significant decline in violence scores occurred and was sustained for 18 months.”

Keilitz agrees that getting a civil or criminal protective order can be empowering for the victim, increasing their agency. “A protection order is a really important way that a survivor can try to take matters into his or her own hands and direct the kind of relief that they would like to have,” she explains. Thus, such orders shouldn’t be forced on a survivor—they should be voluntary, she believes.

In addition, getting such an order is a way to get the abuser’s attention and make him realize the seriousness of his behavior, adds Keilitz. And protective orders may give victims access to other kinds of relief, such as economic relief or compensation for property damage.

One of the benefits of having a protective order is that a violation of such an order is a crime in and of itself, separate from any other related charges. These violations may be easier to prove than the criminal charges that led to the issuance of the order in the first place—and may not even require the victim’s testimony.

For instance, suppose an abuser violated a protective order by going to the victim’s workplace, which was prohibited by the order. The prosecution may be able to prove that violation with, say, video surveillance of the workplace’s parking lot or the testimony of a security guard, who saw the abuser.

Thus, it’s critical that the police take these orders seriously and act appropriately when abusers violate them. In fact, in some states, the police are required to arrest the violators of protective orders.

For instance, in New York, the police must arrest an individual if the victim and that individual are members of the same family/household or are intimate partners, and an Order of Protection was violated.

But too often, the police fail to act when protective orders are violated.

For example, after Stephanie Goodloe got an emergency protective order against her ex-boyfriend, she notified the police that he was violating the order by calling her from multiple phone numbers and showing up at her home. She later called the police again to report more violations, saying he had called her at work and told her she should leave DC because he would send people to hurt her. The next day, Goodloe was killed.

Some government officials are trying to improve efforts to enforce protective orders and adequately protect those who hold them.

One tool some states and jurisdictions have embraced is the use of GPS monitoring of the targets of protective orders.

For instance, the Memphis Police Department has launched a three-year pilot program in which GPS ankle bracelets are being used to track the offenders in domestic violence cases. The devices are monitored 24 hours a day by a private company, which notifies the police when the offender enters an “exclusion zone.” So far, the program has resulted in 160 arrests.

However, GPS monitoring is not a perfect solution, either.

For example, when Madonna McGuire’s husband killed her, he was wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor and was in a prohibited area. But the company monitoring his whereabouts never notified the court that he was in an exclusionary zone and thus in violation of the protective order. (The court recently terminated its contract with that company.)

Keilitz notes that GPS monitoring can be effective but it’s expensive. She believes it should be reserved for the riskiest, most dangerous cases because it can be overkill.

There are things that the victims of domestic violence can do themselves, however, to increase the effectiveness of protective orders and ensure their own safety.

“I think you need to let as many people know that you have a protection order. including your employer, your child’s school and anywhere that you go regularly,” says Keilitz.

Give them a copy of the order and carry a copy on you at all times. People such as your friends, employer, neighbors, doormen, etc. can keep an eye out for your abuser and not let him in or notify the police if he shows up somewhere he’s not supposed to be.

After all, the victims of domestic violence are not always attacked at home. Remember that Shaekeya Gay was killed outside her job while on a break.

In addition, it’s important to keep a record of any and all violations of the order, no matter how small or innocuous, and to report certain violations to the court or the police, advises Keilitz. For example, while you might simply document the abuser’s failure to make a payment required by the order, you should notify the police if he shows up at your home or another location barred by the order.

Also, Keilitz warns that victims should avoid engaging with or encouraging their abuser, such as responding to his calls or texts. She explains that you don’t want to give him a window to say, “Well, she called me, so I thought she wanted to get back together.”

If you genuinely want to reconcile with your abuser, apply to alter the order’s terms or to remove the order completely, advises Keilitz.

Keilitz also suggests that victims stay in touch with domestic violence advocates or victim witness services, who can provide various kinds of assistance.

But perhaps the most important thing you can do is to recognize that the protective order should be just one element in your safety plan—don’t rely on it alone. “There is no halo of protection around a person just because they have a protection order,” observes Keilitz.

According to a 2010 review of studies on restraining orders, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, “protection orders are not a panacea…they are only one [emphasis added] component of any effective threat-management strategy.”

Keilitz says the best thing for a survivor is to have a safety plan, and to have thought out what they will do in certain circumstances and what their various options are down the line.

Victims should work with law enforcement officials, agencies and/or domestic violence advocates to develop a comprehensive plan, which may include counseling, job assistance, housing, and additional safety steps such as changing your phone numbers and email address.

Robin Barton

Robin L. Barton

Bottom line: Despite the issues and limitations, if you’re a victim of domestic violence and qualify for a protective order, you should seriously consider getting one with the advice of domestic violence experts and advocates.

But recognize that such orders are just one arrow in the quiver of protections for these vulnerable individuals and shouldn’t be relied on as the sole defense.

Robin L. Barton, a legal journalist based in Brooklyn, NY, is a former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a regular blogger for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Do Orders of Protection Actually Protect Victims of Domestic Violence?

It’s easy to see why the victims of domestic violence may see getting protective orders as a waste of time. But although there are limits to the protections such orders offer, they’re still valuable tools that can help keep victims safe, writes TCR’s legal affairs columnist.

In December, 2017, Madonna McGuire was killed in her Florida home by her estranged husband, who then killed himself.

Shaekeya Gay was shot to death in August 2017 outside her job in North Carolina by her estranged boyfriend of two years, with whom she’d lived. He’s now facing charges for her murder.

In June 2016, Stephanie Goodloe was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in the bedroom of her home in Washington, DC. He was arrested and charged with murder.

Cassie Wagner was murdered in Oregon in September 2014 by her ex-boyfriend of 11 years.

Aside from being examples of incidents of domestic violence that ended tragically, the above situations have another fact in common: In each case, the victim had a protective order against the man who ultimately ended her life.

So, if you were an abused woman and read these kinds of stories, would you even bother getting such an order against your abuser?

It’s easy to see why the victims of domestic violence may see getting protective orders as a waste of time. But although there are limits to the protections such orders offer, they’re still valuable tools that can help keep victims safe.

Protective orders—also called orders of protection or restraining orders, depending on the jurisdiction—are intended to restrain the person to which they’re issued from harassing, attacking, stalking, threatening, contacting or coming near the target of the abuse as well as her home, workplace, school, etc. These orders can also extend such protections to children and even pets in some cases and states.

Although domestic violence cases stereotypically involve spouses, most states permit the issuance of protective orders in cases involving various types of close relationships.

For example, according to WomensLaw.org, in California, you can file for a domestic violence restraining order if you or your minor child have been the victims of domestic violence from:

  • A spouse or former spouse;
  • A person you’re dating or used to date, including a same-sex partner;
  • The mother or father of your child;
  • A person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption (such as a mother, father, child, brother, sister, grandparent or in-law); and
  • A person who regularly lives or used to live in your home.

There are both criminal and civil protective orders. To get an order against an abuser, you may need to have a pending case involving that individual in either criminal or civil court, such as an open assault case or child custody dispute. In other words, a judge often can’t just issue you a protective order in a vacuum—the order may need to be connected to an existing court case. (Emergency restraining orders are an exception to that general rule.)

Temporary protective orders typically last for the period of time between court dates on the related case and may need to be renewed at each subsequent court appearance. In some instances, an emergency order may only be in effect until a full hearing can be held on the need for such an order.

When the underlying case is resolved with, say, a guilty plea or a settlement, the court may issue the victim a final or permanent protective order. However, even so-called “permanent” orders aren’t usually permanent.

For instance, in New York, a final order of protection will often be granted for up to two years. But if the judge determines that one or more “aggravating circumstances” exist, such as the abuser’s use of a weapon, the order may be issued for up to five years. Note that some states, such as Florida, do permit the issuance of final protective orders without an expiration date.

Protective orders aren’t a cure-all. First, the orders typically bar the abuser from doing things that are already illegal, such as assaulting or harassing the victim, so they’re redundant in that respect.

Second, protective orders are only effective if the abuser feels compelled to comply with them. When such orders are issued in relation to a criminal case, the abuser has already shown a willingness to violate the law. Thus, it may be unreasonable to expect him to feel bound to comply with the terms of a piece of paper.

Third, the fact that the penalties for violations of protective orders aren’t that harsh—and are usually much less severe than the penalties for any abusive behavior—weakens their effectiveness as a deterrent of such behavior.

For example, at least two other women had filed for protective orders against Cassie Wagner’s ex-boyfriend, claiming similar threats or abuse at his hands. But when he violated Wagner’s order, he merely got probation. And 40 days after she became the third woman issued a protective order against him, she was dead.

Lastly, getting a protective order can sometimes make a bad situation worse by actually triggering a violent reaction by the abuser, especially if he’s surprised by the request.

(Note that research shows that if an abuser has a firearm, the likelihood of a fatality increases dramatically. Under the federal Violence Against Women Act, individuals who are the subject of a qualifying domestic violence protective order are barred from possessing firearms. However, enforcement of that ban has proved challenging—and is a topic that’s too complex for the scope of this article.)

Despite the above issues, victims of domestic violence should at least consider getting a protective order, says Susan Keilitz, JD, Principal Court Research Consultant at the National Center for State Courts and an expert on civil protection orders.

Several studies have found that despite the aforementioned issues, protective orders are effective.

For example, a 2004 study of 150 urban, abused women who applied for a two-year protection order against an intimate partner found significant reductions in threats of assault, physical assault, stalking and workplace harassment during the subsequent 18 months—even if the woman wasn’t ultimately granted the protection order.

The researchers concluded that the protection order was essentially an announcement that the abused woman refused to “take it” anymore and was acting on her own behalf. So, once a woman applied and qualified for a protection order, “a rapid and significant decline in violence scores occurred and was sustained for 18 months.”

Keilitz agrees that getting a civil or criminal protective order can be empowering for the victim, increasing their agency. “A protection order is a really important way that a survivor can try to take matters into his or her own hands and direct the kind of relief that they would like to have,” she explains. Thus, such orders shouldn’t be forced on a survivor—they should be voluntary, she believes.

In addition, getting such an order is a way to get the abuser’s attention and make him realize the seriousness of his behavior, adds Keilitz. And protective orders may give victims access to other kinds of relief, such as economic relief or compensation for property damage.

One of the benefits of having a protective order is that a violation of such an order is a crime in and of itself, separate from any other related charges. These violations may be easier to prove than the criminal charges that led to the issuance of the order in the first place—and may not even require the victim’s testimony.

For instance, suppose an abuser violated a protective order by going to the victim’s workplace, which was prohibited by the order. The prosecution may be able to prove that violation with, say, video surveillance of the workplace’s parking lot or the testimony of a security guard, who saw the abuser.

Thus, it’s critical that the police take these orders seriously and act appropriately when abusers violate them. In fact, in some states, the police are required to arrest the violators of protective orders.

For instance, in New York, the police must arrest an individual if the victim and that individual are members of the same family/household or are intimate partners, and an Order of Protection was violated.

But too often, the police fail to act when protective orders are violated.

For example, after Stephanie Goodloe got an emergency protective order against her ex-boyfriend, she notified the police that he was violating the order by calling her from multiple phone numbers and showing up at her home. She later called the police again to report more violations, saying he had called her at work and told her she should leave DC because he would send people to hurt her. The next day, Goodloe was killed.

Some government officials are trying to improve efforts to enforce protective orders and adequately protect those who hold them.

One tool some states and jurisdictions have embraced is the use of GPS monitoring of the targets of protective orders.

For instance, the Memphis Police Department has launched a three-year pilot program in which GPS ankle bracelets are being used to track the offenders in domestic violence cases. The devices are monitored 24 hours a day by a private company, which notifies the police when the offender enters an “exclusion zone.” So far, the program has resulted in 160 arrests.

However, GPS monitoring is not a perfect solution, either.

For example, when Madonna McGuire’s husband killed her, he was wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor and was in a prohibited area. But the company monitoring his whereabouts never notified the court that he was in an exclusionary zone and thus in violation of the protective order. (The court recently terminated its contract with that company.)

Keilitz notes that GPS monitoring can be effective but it’s expensive. She believes it should be reserved for the riskiest, most dangerous cases because it can be overkill.

There are things that the victims of domestic violence can do themselves, however, to increase the effectiveness of protective orders and ensure their own safety.

“I think you need to let as many people know that you have a protection order. including your employer, your child’s school and anywhere that you go regularly,” says Keilitz.

“Give them a copy of the order and carry a copy on you at all times. People such as your friends, employer, neighbors, doormen, etc. can keep an eye out for your abuser and not let him in or notify the police if he shows up somewhere he’s not supposed to be.”

After all, the victims of domestic violence are not always attacked at home. Remember that Shaekeya Gay was killed outside her job while on a break.

In addition, it’s important to keep a record of any and all violations of the order, no matter how small or innocuous, and to report certain violations to the court or the police, advises Keilitz. For example, while you might simply document the abuser’s failure to make a payment required by the order, you should notify the police if he shows up at your home or another location barred by the order.

Also, Keilitz warns that victims should avoid engaging with or encouraging their abuser, such as responding to his calls or texts. She explains that you don’t want to give him a window to say, “Well, she called me, so I thought she wanted to get back together.”

If you genuinely want to reconcile with your abuser, apply to alter the order’s terms or to remove the order completely, advises Keilitz.

Keilitz also suggests that victims stay in touch with domestic violence advocates or victim witness services, who can provide various kinds of assistance.

But perhaps the most important thing you can do is to recognize that the protective order should be just one element in your safety plan—don’t rely on it alone. “There is no halo of protection around a person just because they have a protection order,” observes Keilitz.

According to a 2010 review of studies on restraining orders, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, “protection orders are not a panacea…they are only one [emphasis added] component of any effective threat-management strategy.”

Keilitz says the best thing for a survivor is to have a safety plan, and to have thought out what they will do in certain circumstances and what their various options are down the line.

Victims should work with law enforcement officials, agencies and/or domestic violence advocates to develop a comprehensive plan, which may include counseling, job assistance, housing, and additional safety steps such as changing your phone numbers and email address.

Robin Barton

Robin L. Barton

Bottom line: Despite the issues and limitations, if you’re a victim of domestic violence and qualify for a protective order, you should seriously consider getting one with the advice of domestic violence experts and advocates.

But recognize that such orders are just one arrow in the quiver of protections for these vulnerable individuals and shouldn’t be relied on as the sole defense.

Robin L. Barton, a legal journalist based in Brooklyn, NY, is a former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a regular blogger for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Courts Fail Sex Trafficking Victims, Webinar Told

Justice-involved women, particularly women of color, are often “exploited” twice: first by human traffickers, and then by a court system that focuses on punishment rather than on providing the trauma services and counseling they need, said a New York City judge.

The rising number of incarcerated women has focused more attention on the need for trauma-informed services for domestic abuse and trafficking victims, New York City judges and advocates told a webinar organized by Project SAFE in partnership with The Center for Court Innovation Thursday.

Many women passing through the criminal justice system are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, rather than being convicted criminals—but courts often aggravate the harm already done to them, said Toko Serita, a judge at the Queens (NY) Misdemeanor Treatment Court.

“The courts are further exploiting their victimization,” Serita said. “There’s something wrong with seeing women in court who shouldn’t be there in the first place because they were forced into prostitution.”

The webinar, titled “Specifying the Needs of Justice-Involved Black Women,” noted that a substantial number of those caught in the prison pipeline are women of color, and many are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.

Speakers detailed the importance of intervention courts, such as human trafficking courts, drug courts and mental health courts, which provide treatment and assistance for women all over New York City.

Black women represent 30 percent of all incarcerated women in the US, although they represent 13 percent of the female population, according to research.

They are also among the nation’s most vulnerable population. Those found working for massage parlors, escort services, and strip clubs are more likely to be arrested for prostitution and loitering–even though many are victims of human trafficking, the webinar was told.

In 2013, then New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman spearheaded efforts to address the problem of criminalizing abuse victims by creating eight new human trafficking courts, in addition to three working courts in Queens, which included judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys who were informed about the dynamics of sex trafficking and could offer services to victims.

These courts refer victims to social services, vocational and educational training, domestic violence and sexual assault services, and substance abuse and mental health treatment centers.

Victims who comply with the mandated services have the opportunity to receive non-criminal dispositions or dismissal of their case.

“This has been a quite successful model,” said Judge Serita, who said her court now hears 200 cases a year.

However, it can be difficult to measure the success of human trafficking courts: Often, victims return to their pimp or former abuser.

Compared to drug courts, which have been proven to reduce recidivism, it may take a woman between seven and eight attempts before she leaves her abuser, said Afua Addo, a coordinator for Gender and Justice Initiatives.

“When someone is being trafficked, you’ll see them re-arrested a number of times because they don’t have a choice in what they’re doing,” Judge Serita responded.

“They might be under the control of a pimp and not have many resources. I have never put anyone in jail because they were arrested for another prostitution charge.”

When it comes to trafficking and sex abuse, there is never a “perfect victim,” the webinar, which was held during “Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” was told.

See also: The Link Between Opioid Abuse and Sex Trafficking

The unique circumstances each individual faces makes it difficult to provide a uniform response from the courts.

“It’s more how can we help this person so she doesn’t get arrested again and can leave her trafficker,” said Serita.

Significantly, trafficking victims are always in recovery from traumatic experiences, and understanding how trauma is perceived can help the criminal justice system move forward with trauma informed care, she continued.

Domestic violence is another form of trauma that can lead to incarceration, and 80 percent of black women in prison have been abused by a husband or loved one, reported the webinar.

Largely, the victimization of women reflects the issue of how women are valued in society, noted Addo.

“It’s hard to acknowledge black women as victims in need of care and support because of systemic racism and sexism.”

Childhood abuse also plays a role in the pipeline to prison.

“Youth who experience childhood trauma and neglect are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 29 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult and more likely to commit violent crime,” according to Project SAFE.

“And girls often are on the receiving end of abuse and neglect, twice the amount as boys.”

The most important thing we can offer victims of abuse is an open door, Addo said.

“You can’t force someone to leave their abuser—but you can provide an open door.”

Editor’s Note: Anyone who wishes to access the full recording of the Webinar “Specifying the Needs of Justice-Involved Black Women” should contact Mara Chin Loy at chinloyt@courtinnovation.org.

Megan Hadley is a staff writer at The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

This Gun Law Makes Sense, But Will Congress Show Grit?

Seventeen states require people placed under restraining orders to surrender their guns or face arrest. In its nine-part series of editorials on links between domestic violence, guns and mass shootings, the New York Times says Congress should make this a federal law–but that would required politicians “to put aside their fear that any restrictions on guns…will run afoul of the mindless absolutism that increasingly defines the NRA.”

Continuing its series of editorials on the links between guns and domestic violence, The New York Times praises Wisconsin for its 2014 law requiring people placed under restraining orders to be notified that they must turn in any guns they owned within 48 hours or face arrest. The law saves lives: States that collect guns from people under restraining orders have a 22 percent lower rate of intimate-partner homicide by gun than those that don’t, according to a Michigan State University study. And murders of bystanders — often police officers, children or other family members — commonly stem from these homicides. Yet Wisconsin is one of only 17 states, plus Washington, D.C., that have enacted this common-sense measure.

This gap in public safety could be easily filled by the federal government. But that would require leaders of Congress to put aside their fear that any restrictions on guns — even those, like this one, that are endorsed by police organizations — will run afoul of the mindless absolutism that increasingly defines the NRA. If Congress wants to make American families safer, the Times says, it will toughen federal law to require those convicted of domestic violence or stalking, or under a restraining order, to turn over their firearms. The editorial is the fifth in a series of nine that focus on domestic violence, which the Times says is often presages mass shootings.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cincinnati Takes New Tack on Domestic Violence

City will start a Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team in which advocates will join police officers on calls for service for domestic violence. One-fourth of the Cincinnati’s homicides involve intimate partner violence.

Cincinnati will launch a Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team (DVERT) next month to provide more support for victims, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Instead of waiting until the next day to respond to incidents, advocates will now respond directly with officers to calls for service for domestic violence. While police are working to solve crimes, advocates are finding places for victims to stay, making sure they have a way to get to work or school and connecting them to other social services. Through the changing partnership, police and the women’s group hope to interrupt the cycle of domestic violence. Assistant Police Chief Mike John said advocates and police can have the biggest impact during the initial response.”There’s a window of opportunity that exists that the DVERT program can help with,” he said. “We don’t always have the skill set, or are limited in those social services, especially with victims and children.” That’s why the new partnership links advocates and police at the scene.

The new program is starting because victim advocates and police felt the pressure to address what Kristin Smith-Shrimplin of the group Women Helping Women calls a “public health epidemic.” Every day in the U.S., three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner on average, says the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Nearly half of female homicide victims are murdered by an intimate partner. For males, that number is just below 5 percent. In Cincinnati, about a quarter of all 2016 homicides involved an offender who was either directly engaged in a domestic assault at the time of the offense or who had a history of domestic or sexual assault. Intimate partner violence makes up 15 percent of  U.S. violent crime.

from https://thecrimereport.org