Harris County is seeing a big spike in domestic-violence cases this year, District Attorney Patricia Lykos' office announced today. They also announced they've taken a variety of steps to handle it.
Jane Waters, chief of the DA's Family Criminal Law Division, reported that 4,900 family violence charges were filed as of Oct. 1. "That pace of filings is 18 percent above last year, and 40 percent more than in 2007," the DAs office said. "Significant increases also have been recorded in the number of protective order applications and cases involving violations of protective orders."
Waters said the increase may be attributed in part to new initiatives and assistance programs by the DA and cops "to help make the process more sensitive to victims' needs.
"We have noticed that the comfort level of victims reporting crimes has increased, leading to additional charges and enhanced prosecutions," Waters said. "It takes courage to get law enforcement involved for the first time. If that experience is a satisfactory one, then the victim will call again and encourage friends in similar situations to get help. Enhanced reporting of crimes can save lives."
From the release:
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The District Attorney said an experienced HPD investigator now works with the DA's domestic violence division on-site, to assist victims in filing charges when they come to the county Criminal Justice Center to seek protective orders. That streamlines the process by removing the need for victims to make a separate trip to a police station for charges.
"Any time you remove a barrier to a domestic violence victim seeking help, you decrease their fears of the criminal justice system," Lykos said. "We can respond to their crisis immediately, and they can begin to feel safe again."