Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Domestic Violence Deaths Drop in County, Report Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Domestic Violence Deaths Drop in County, Report Says

Article excerpt

The number of people killed in domestic violence incidents in Allegheny County dropped below 20 in 2016 for the first time in three years, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The nonprofit organization recorded nine domestic violence fatalities in the county during 2016, compared with 20 in 2015, 22 in 2014 and 28 in 2013. The decrease marks the first time since 2012 that Allegheny County has not led the state in the number of reported domestic violence deaths, according to coalition data.

There is no official count of domestic violence homicides in Pennsylvania, said coalition deputy director Ellen Kramer, so the organization relies on media reports, police data and information from social service providers to keep a year-by-year tally.

It's hard to pinpoint the reason why fatalities dropped so dramatically in Allegheny County during 2016, but Ms. Kramer and others who work in the field cited countywide cooperation, an increased focus on domestic violence prevention and more widespread use of lethality assessments among law enforcement.

"The lethality assessment makes a huge difference because police are able to reach the victim sooner and connect them to our agency," said Shirl Regan, president of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

The 11-question lethality assessments are designed to predict whether victims of domestic violence are in danger of being killed by their partners. Pittsburgh police began using lethality assessments in 2013.

Officers ask victims the 11 questions while at the scene of domestic violence incidents. If victims score high on the survey, police immediately connect them to a prevention service, like the Women's Center.

During 2016, Pittsburgh police completed 1,266 lethality assessments, Ms. Regan said, and of that number, 822 victims were shown to be in high danger. …

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