Alexandria Fights Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

Since the late 1970's, the City of Alexandria has been an advocate for battered women and a leader in efforts to stop domestic violence.

In 1979, the City opened a Shelter for Battered Women, and in 1985 the City Council created the Victims of Violent Crime Task Force that led to the creation of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project. The Police Department's 1988 Mandatory Arrest Policy for domestic abusers has been critical to the success of the Project.

Since then, the City has been tackling domestic violence crimes head-on through a coordinated network of victim advocates, police, prosecutors, judges and court officers, probation and parole staff, and the City's Office on Women. Aggressive prosecution of abusers by the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, court-ordered counseling for abusers and services for women victims and their children are key elements of the City's program.

In 1994, the Alexandria Police Department began an intensified effort to curb domestic violence by prosecuting repeat abusers under a Virginia law that makes the third conviction for assault and battery a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The city credits the Domestic Violence Intervention Project and the cooperative efforts of the members of the City's criminal justice community with a reduction in the number of domestic-related homicides, an increase in victims' services, and greater cooperation from victims as cases are prosecuted. In 1987, nearly 40 percent of the homicides that year were domestic in nature. Between January 1, 1988 and December 31, 1994, the City reported 50 homicides, with only 8 of them classified by police as domestic-related (16 percent).

Alexandria's experience since January 1988 demonstrates that domestic violence is a crime that does respond to assertive intervention by police coupled with strict prosecution policies. …