Thank you, Chief Spaulding, for those kind words, and for your service as Chief of the Westminster Police Department. It’s a privilege to stand with you today – and to join Vice President Biden and so many dedicated law enforcement officers, victim service providers, and strong advocates here in Montgomery County.
I’d particularly like to thank the Vice President for his leadership, over the years, in fighting against domestic violence. I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of Governor O’Malley, along with Maryland’s outstanding U.S. Senators – Ben Cardin, whom we’re honored to have with us, and Barbara Mikulski, who unfortunately couldn’t make it. And I’d like to applaud Montgomery County Sheriff Popkin, the Montgomery County Family Justice Center, and the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence for their longstanding commitment to domestic violence homicide prevention.
This morning, I’m proud to join Vice President Biden in unveiling the first-ever Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative grant awards – through which the Justice Department will distribute a total of $2.3 million to 12 cities and counties to support innovative programs dedicated to predicting potentially lethal behavior, stopping the escalation of violence, and saving lives.
The same week that Congress voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, at least 15 women and 4 men were killed by intimate partners. The day the vote took place, one woman was beaten to death with a baseball bat by her boyfriend. Another was shot by her husband as she left a movie theater. And yet another woman – who was five months pregnant – was also murdered by her boyfriend, who drove her body to a wooded area and burned it – all with her two young children in the car.
On average, three women are murdered every day in this country by a boyfriend, husband, or ex-husband. Experts estimate that, for every victim of domestic violence who is killed, an additional nine nearly lose their lives. And many others – including children, coworkers, neighbors, and police officers – are injured or killed while trying to stop violent acts, or simply because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is why our nation’s Department of Justice – and our colleagues across the Administration – are determined to fight back. In Raleigh, North Carolina, the local United States Attorney’s Office recently intervened in a matter where the defendant possessed ammunition in contravention of a state domestic violence restraining order. One of the bullets they found had the victim’s name written on it. As a result, we believe their intervention may have saved a life. Beyond our traditional enforcement efforts – by supporting the development and evaluation of domestic violence homicide prevention models, and then adapting these models for different communities – this new Initiative will strengthen our ability to reduce these heinous crimes and help those who are at risk.
As we’ve repeatedly seen, homicide reduction strategies work. Eight years ago, a crisis center in Newburyport, Massachusetts implemented a High Risk Case Response Team. Under this program, each time a high-risk offender is identified, a team of law enforcement, prosecutors, probation officers and victim advocates search for open warrants, make arrests, connect victims with services, and use pretrial conditions to keep offenders in custody. As a result – in more than 100 cases where the High Risk Team provided management between 2005 and 2011 – there was not a single domestic violence homicide.
Similarly – here in Maryland – the Lethality Assessment Program has enabled law enforcement to identify over 25,000 high-danger victims of domestic violence. More than half of them have spoken on the phone with domestic violence hotline workers. Nearly a third have sought further assistance from domestic violence programs. And not a single one of them has been seriously injured or killed.
Thanks to initiatives like this one – and the hard work of countless public servants and victim advocates – Maryland has witnessed a decrease of more than one third in intimate partner homicides over the past five years, at a time when some states are reporting record spikes in domestic violence murders. And this morning’s announcement provides good reason for confidence in where these and similar efforts will lead us in the critical days ahead.
Once again, I’d like to thank Vice President Biden for his leadership. I’d like to commend each of today’s participants for lending their voices to this important work. And I’d like to congratulate each of our 12 grant recipients.
It is now my privilege to introduce Janet Blackburn – a courageous advocate for victims of domestic violence, who has transformed the pain of her own immeasurable loss into a positive force for change. Please join me in welcoming Janet to the podium.