“The police get more than 1,800 domestic violence reports annually and about 1,300 of these involve physical violence. This works out to an average of 25 per day. This means that, if the mandate being demanded by activists is met, at least 50 police officers will be expending at least 100 man-hours every day on such reports. Is this practical or even reasonable?
“Instead, it would be more effective to train the police to employ algorithmic methods to identify high-risk individuals when they make reports and prioritise those cases…”
The following Letter to the Editor, which seeks to use hard data to analyse domestic violence, was submitted to Wired868 by Kevin Baldeosingh.
Domestic violence, especially murder, understandably generates strong passions. But it is precisely for this reason that it is even more important to analyse the issue dispassionately, since responses and policies based on emotive arguments are likely to exacerbate rather than reduce the incidence of this kind of violence.
Passion (as well as politics), for example, impels unchallenged assertions that Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing an “epidemic” of violence against women. But do the statistics confirm this?
Last year, 52 women were murdered, 43 of them in domestic violence incidents. This is certainly a spike, since the average for the preceding decade was 26 domestic murders of women annually. At the same time, the murdered women in 2017 comprised 10 percent of all murders, which has been the pattern for the past 30 years.
The next important figure is the rate of domestic violence in general. Contrary to assertions that most women are cowering in fear of their partners, the data show that a minority of women in relationships experience physical violence. In respect of such violence, the Crime and Victimisation Survey (which surveys victims, not police reports) found that 12 percent of respondents reported such incidents. The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 found that eight percent of both men and women experienced domestic violence.
The judiciary also reports that there are 10,000 applications for protection orders per year, which extrapolates to less than eight percent of all domestic relationships being sufficiently abusive to require such action.
Understanding this is important, since psychological research shows that people tend to act according to what they believe is the norm; thus, when the media and activists promulgate the false idea that domestic violence is widespread, this can actually cause more people to be abusive to their partners.
The main recommendation being put forward from various quarters is for the police to respond to ALL domestic violence reports. I am at a loss to understand exactly why since the same persons calling for this were involved in the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, which in Section 21 (1) already states that “A police officer shall respond to every complaint or report alleging domestic violence whether or not the person making the complaint or the report is the victim.”
So the real issue is the ratio of reports that police do respond to. This is an important data-point because it is only the failed responses which result in murder that come to public attention.
Those individuals and organisations who are calling for this measure without providing any empirical arguments are only demonstrating that they are pursuing a narrow agenda, as distinct from the common good. After all, if the police are mandated to respond to all domestic violence reports, it necessarily means that they must pick and choose among other crimes (such as rape and non-domestic assaults) since time and resources are limited.
The police get more than 1,800 domestic violence reports annually and about 1,300 of these involve physical violence. This works out to an average of 25 per day. This means that, if the mandate being demanded by activists is met, at least 50 police officers will be expending at least 100 man-hours every day on such reports. Is this practical or even reasonable?
Instead, it would be more effective to train the police to employ algorithmic methods to identify high-risk individuals when they make reports and prioritise those cases. Such algorithms will be based to a great extent on the likely profile of domestic murder victims. The data show that the most likely victims are between the ages of 25 to 29, are either Afro or mixed and reside in south Trinidad.
Finally, it is notable that, without exception, editorialists and commentators have studiously avoided saying what women can do, since it is not politically correct to view women as anything other than victims. However, any efficacious policy recommendations must necessarily start from the premise that women have agency. The victim perspective only reveals that virtue-signalling, ideology and even politics are being prioritised by the commentator over the actual reduction of domestic violence.
This is what got Prime Minister Keith Rowley in trouble for his common sense statement that women need to make better choices—although criticism of Dr Rowley for his self-serving and fallacious claim that policy measures cannot reduce domestic murder is not undeserved.
So it may well be the case that 41-year-old Abigail Jones-Chapman could have been saved had the police responded more effectively to her report of being threatened by a man she was involved with.
But it is also the case that if Chapman—the mother of three girls who, according to newspaper reports, had been estranged from her husband two years ago and was a regular church-goer—had made different choices, neither she nor any of the other murder victims would have been at risk.
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