New domestic violence database ‘essential’ for New York law enforcement

New York State law enforcement officials located outside New York City will soon have a central database to store and retrieve information regarding domestic violence incidents under a $1.5 million initiative announced earlier this month.

Coordinated through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the state’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV), the electronic “Domestic Incident Report” database will allow police officers, sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors, probation and parole officers from more than 550 agencies in 57 counties the ability to conduct detailed searches. The City of New York is operating with a similar system, which has seen broad adoption and received wide acclaim. According to officials, the new database will make Domestic Incident Reports (DIRs) more conducive to cross-referencing and data mining, providing a much more complete look at the incidence of domestic violence in Upstate and on Long Island, New York.

“Access to data captured in DIRs will provide a more accurate picture of the extent and nature of domestic violence, allowing law enforcement and advocates to develop policies and coordinated strategies that will turn the tide against this devastating crime in their communities,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said.

The system is scheduled for launch in early 2011, officials said, with the help of over $1.5 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus dollars. The funds were appropriated through a larger $7.4 million program to combat domestic violence and sexual assault through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). DCJS has also apportioned 59 law enforcement agencies with grants to improve services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

According to DCJS officials, DIR hard-copies will still be filed when officers respond to calls for service and mail copies to the state. Once DCJS receives the copies, staff will scan and extract key identifiers, such as names, addresses, document numbers, etc. The reports will then be made available to a wide array of law enforcement officials, packaged in ways most appropriate for the users. The ability to see relational and longitudinal data may be the new system’s hallmark, OPDV Executive Director Amy Barasch said.

“Since domestic violence incidents are usually part of a longer pattern of behavior, having a full and accurate history of the relationship is essential both for police to respond properly to situations, and for victims and advocates to document what has happened.”