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Northeast Louisiana sees major reduction in domestic homicides

The Jena Times of Jena, Louisiana

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On Thursday, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV) announced that Northeast Louisiana has achieved what appears to be a significant and longstanding reduction in domestic homicides.

LCADAV tracks domestic homicide data for the state of Louisiana and conducts regular analysis of trends in the state. They release information yearly in October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. They say their review of recent data shows that Northeast Louisiana has seen a drop of roughly 70% in domestic homicides since 2011 and that drop has remained consistent for four years now.

LCADV Executive Director Beth Meeks calls this a significant breakthrough. "We are seeing data here that is not temporary or accidental. This represents the first time in almost 20 years of tracking that we can identify progress in Louisiana on reducing domestic homicides. It is an understatement to call it impressive."

LCADV has tracked domestic homicide data since 1997. The Northeast Louisiana (NELA) region is defined as the 12 parishes served by The Wellspring, the domestic violence service provider in

Northeast Louisiana. These parishes include: Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East and West Carroll, Franklin, LaSalle, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland and Tensas.

In the years 1997-2011, NELA averaged slightly more than six domestic violence homicides per year. After 2011, the average fell to two deaths per year, a roughly 70% drop. The currently estimated national rate of femicide, as determined by the Violence Policy Center in its yearly report is 1.09 per 100,000. The most recent rate for Louisiana is 1.99 per 100,000. The current NELA rate is 63 per 100,000, about 40% lower than the national average and more than 60% lower than the Louisiana rate.

LCADV notes that this region has never had four consecutive years that posted three or fewer domestic violence homicides, and this reduction was not observed in other regions in the state.

The drop in homicides coincides with procedural and programming changes that were implemented in 2011. Meeks credits a solid coordinated community response, led by The Wellspring, for successfully creating systemic changes that made this progress possible. "Starting in 2011, the entire criminal justice system here put in place processes and interventions that have been known to reduce domestic violence homicides. Obviously those choices are paying off." As an example, she says, they used specialized prosecutors and an accelerated docket for domestic violence cases. They increased the number of victimless prosecutions, put batterers on probation, used batterer intervention programs, eliminated pre-set bonds for domestic violence offenders, meaning they usually see a Judge before being released, and implemented supervised visitation programming.

Meeks believes these sorts of changes can be replicated throughout Louisiana but cautions that they are not effective unless implemented within specific parameters. "You can't just call it batterers' intervention or supervised visitation, it has to follow certain specific practices and methods to be effective. But Northeast Louisiana has proven that it can be done, and most importantly it can be done in Louisiana. There is no excuse for continued domestic homicides at this rate. We know how to solve this." Meeks says many jurisdictions throughout Louisiana have been sharing information in an attempt to learn how best to reduce domestic violence and she is confident that they will look to this section of the state for guidance. "There are absolutely lots of communities; law enforcement, advocates, judges and prosecutors, who have been working in partnership to try to understand and reduce domestic homicides. I am confident many of them will look to their colleagues in this section of the state for advice on how to advance their own work," said Meeks.

The announcement comes as the Family Justice Center of Ouachita Parish, an organization piloted by The Well-spring, which brought the coordinated community response together, celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

For additional information on domestic violence, and to learn ways to get involved, visit www.lcadv.org.

The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV) is a statewide network of battered women's programs, other organizations and individuals who share the goal of ending violence against women and children in Louisiana. LCADV empowers its members through advocacy, education, resource development and technical assistance.



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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015



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