Domestic violence is still an urgent Dallas problem according to a new report for the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Taskforce from The Institute for Urban Policy Research at The University of Texas at Dallas.
“Domestic violence permeates every sector of our community, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, neighborhood, it’s everywhere,” said UTD Assistant Criminology Professor, Dr. Denise Paguette Boots, who co-authored the report.
Mayor Mike Rawlings formed the task force in 2013 after a rash of domestic violence murders.
“You can’t change something if you don’t have quantitative information, numbers. You’ve got to see, 'are we improving or we not?' And the fact that we didn’t have these numbers blew me away,” Rawlings said.
The report used data from shelters, police and prosecutors between June 2014 and May 2015.
The research found 3,656 misdemeanor domestic violence cases filed in Dallas Municipal Court, 1,761 cases where Dallas police took more serious offenders in custody and 10 domestic violence murders.
The four main Dallas domestic violence shelters have 352 beds. An average of 152 victims are turned away from those shelters each night for lack of space, according to the report.
“And it gives us a great preliminary base line to see how we are responding to domestic violence in Dallas,” Boots said.
Debra Nixon Bowles with the faith-based group "Women Called Moses" helps victims turned away from full shelters with hotel rooms or rental homes paid for with contributions.
“There’s not enough shelters to put the women in and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that,” Nixon Bowles said. “We’ve got a lot of homeless, battered women and children living in the street because we don’t have enough shelters in this city.”
Nixon Bowles said that was clearly the problem two years ago when Rawlings first formed the task force, but no new shelters have opened.
“They always say 'why does she go back?' Because there’s a lack of resources in this city for our women being impacted by domestic violence. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure this out,” she said.
Nixon Bowles suggested that vacant buildings in Dallas could be made into low-cost shelters.
“Great report, but my report says we need more shelters in our city, bottom line,” Nixon Bowles said.
Rawlings said the report will help his task force focus on several solutions, including shelters and education to prevent domestic violence before there are victims.
“Now it’s our job to do two things, to make sure they get the resources they need, but also to start the counseling early in the process, so it’s not the moment at one-o’clock in the morning when they have to take their kid with a bag and leave and need a place to stay,” he said. “We’ve got to change the mindset of men. But the way we change that mindset is put visibility on the numbers and show how many people are impacted by this.”
The mayor said police officers have been trained in ‘lethality’ judgment on domestic violence calls to put the individuals most likely to commit murder behind bars.
Police have also conducted domestic violence suspect round ups.
Rawlings said the task force will also focus on tracking criminal cases through the court system.