Police in NE Tarrant County Delivering Letters to Put Domestic Violence Offenders on Notice

A new program targeting domestic violence offenders in Tarrant County may be saving lives. Just three years ago, Tarrant lead the state in domestic violence murders. 16 people were killed at the hands of an intimate partner in both 2016 and 2017. But thanks in part to these new efforts, last year that number was cut in half.

Bedford police have gotten into the business of delivering letters. But the notes they're taking door-to-door have a very specific purpose.

"This letter is your official notice that your name has been added to a law enforcement database related to domestic violence and intimate partner violence," said Bedford Police Sgt. Tyler Stillman, reading from the Level One letter.

They're putting offenders on notice that they're now tracking even minor aggressions against an intimate partner.

"We're just here to bring you a letter," Sgt. Stillman told one offender from his doorway. "We want you to read it and let us know if you have any questions."

There are three letters, for actions ranging from verbal abuse to physical violence, each aimed at stopping the behavior before it gets worse.

"This is new, this is new for them to say 'ok people are watching me,'" said Sgt. Stillman.

For Officer Monique Hall, it's personal. She had an abusive boyfriend back in high school.

"It was in the 80s, you really didn't talk about those things," Officer Hall said. "He was very violent. I was very, very afraid."

Now it's her passion to help pull other victims out of a dark place.

"And I had all the pictures that all the officers had taken of her injuries and I laid them in front of her and I said tell me, tell me it's not getting worse. Tell me he's not going to kill you," Officer Hall said of one victim she helped. "Finally she broke down and said yes he's going to kill me. She was terrified. She didn't have anywhere to go."

The combined efforts seem to be working. In Bedford, the rate of offenders re-committing crimes of intimate partner violence has cut in half.

"That's outstanding," said Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Art Clayton.

The district attorney's office is working with Bedford and other small departments in Northeast Tarrant County, including North Richland Hills, Hurst and Haltom City to standardize how they respond to these crimes.

"This type of program has not been done to this scale anywhere else," Clayton said. "They're collecting evidence more thoroughly and better, they know what to look out for. We know what to look out for."

The DA's office went looking for solutions when they realized how many of the county's murders were tied to domestic violence.

"They'll strike out at police, they'll strike out at everyday citizens," Clayton said. "If they're willing to hurt someone they claim that they love, they'll hurt anybody."

A pattern of violence and intimidation that used to hide in the shadows, now front and center.

An offender can be entered in the domestic violence database even before committing a crime. The idea is to let them know they're being tracked before any serious violence starts.

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