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Austin Takes New Approach in Strangulation Cases

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBC10.com

    The number of strangulation cases filed by Austin police has increased 29 percent since the department began compiling more detailed accounts of the assault, according to a report published Monday.

    Austin officers began using forms in July that detail strangulation injuries more thoroughly. The Austin American-Statesman reports that the charge of strangulation wasn't adopted in Texas until 2009. The offense usually is a result of domestic violence, and is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says strangulation is the cause of death for 11 percent of murdered women both in Texas and nationally. But assault victims left injured too often are uncooperative with investigators, prompting police and prosecutors to look for new ways to make the charges stick.

    The extra forms help eliminate the need for victim cooperation when prosecuting a strangulation offense, since victims can sometimes be reticent about reporting such incidents. They also help detail incidents that wouldn't otherwise be obvious to investigators.

    A national study in San Diego showed that no visible injury is present in roughly 50 percent of strangulation cases, yet the crime often is a precursor to more violent offenses committed by an offender.

    Kelsey McKay, a Travis County prosecutor who specializes in strangulation assaults, said the new paperwork requires Austin police to better detail injuries and symptoms of strangulation. More-detailed accounts are crucial to successful prosecutions.

    McKay helped create the supplementary forms. Officers fill them out when they encounter a victim of an assault.

    Meanwhile, detectives and new cadets at the Austin Police Department have been trained to recognize the symptoms of a person who has been strangled.