Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 2. Reporting and Arrests

Section 8 — Do arrest rates correspond to actual rates of domestic violence and stalking based on victim surveys?

Domestic violence arrest rates as a percentage of written incident reports vary greatly because incident report writing practices vary across jurisdictions. A better, more consistent measure is the arrests per capita over the course of a year. At least one study documents that actual per capita arrests for domestic violence across an entire (albeit small) state exceeded the national estimates of domestic violence as determined by the NCVS. A Rhode Island study found in 2004 that per capita domestic violence arrests were 10.5 per 1,000 females (including both male and female suspects of female victims) and were 2.9 per 1,000 males (including both male and female suspects of male victims), higher than the national estimated incidence rates of 8.6 per 1,000 females and 2.5 per 1,000 males. [136] Other, disparate jurisdictions have similarly demonstrated high per capita arrest rates: Wichita, Kan. 12.1/1,000 (2000); Chicago, 6.9/1,000 (1997); and Nevada, 5.4/1,000 (2001). [135]

Performance Measure for Law Enforcement: If domestic violence is broadly defined and if law enforcement agencies mandate and enforce arrest upon probable cause, over the course of a year, law enforcement can reach the same percentage of victims who identify themselves as abused in national crime victim surveys. Departments should establish benchmarks based on the NCVS to assess their performance. (Research basis: This performance measure is based on actual arrest figures from Rhode Island, a state with mandatory arrest for protective order violations and assaults with injuries, and where domestic violence includes any crime committed by family or household members, cohabitants, current or former intimate partners, and dating partners. Jurisdictions' definitions will necessarily vary and are based on state laws as documented in Klein, 2004, pp. 90-91.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009