As New York City murders have declined significantly over 25 years, one category has remained stubbornly high: domestic violence homicides. The persistence of such killings has frustrated police officers, prosecutors, social service providers, and policymakers struggling to prevent intimate tensions that play out behind closed doors from turning deadly, reports the New York Times. While the city already has a host of programs aimed at curbing domestic violence, Mayor Bill de Blasio is assembling a task force, headed by the first lady, Chirlane McCray, and Police Commissioner James O’Neill to devise a “comprehensive citywide strategy” in the next four months.
The mandate is to find ways for social workers to intervene in troubled families before violence escalates, and to ensure more abusers are held accountable in court for their acts. Homicides overall have declined nearly 40 percent since 2002. The number of killings within a family or in a romantic relationship has averaged about 68 a year during that period. Even as murders have edged down again this year, domestic homicides have been climbing, with 54 as of Nov. 27. Domestic violence has accounted for more than 10,500 serious crimes reported this year, a slight increase over 2015. Officials estimate half of domestic assaults are never reported to the police. Even when the police make an arrest in a domestic assault, most cases end up being dismissed, often because the victim is unwilling to testify.