Orlando cops will soon carry a new weapon when they respond to domestic-violence calls: a questionnaire designed to predict whether a victim could eventually be killed by an abuser, says the Orlando Sentinel. The short list of questions represents a radical shift in the way domestic battery is handled — and could cut the city’s rising murder rate. “This is a huge, outside-the-box step for [the police]. It’s this kind of thinking that saves lives,” said Carol Wick of Harbor House of Central Florida, which runs a shelter, hotline, and other services for domestic-violence victims. Eight of Orlando’s 42 homicides last year were elated to domestic violence.
Few of those victims had contact with domestic-violence advocates, who typically wait until their abuse hotline rings or a victim walks in the door looking for help. Orlando officers who respond to a domestic-violence call will be required to go over the questionnaire — known as a “threat-assessment checklist” — with victims. It’s designed to determine which cases are similar to ones that have ended in death. It includes questions such as “Is there a firearm in the house?” and “Has your partner been stalking, following or watching you?” A Harbor House advocate will check the questionnaires and contact individuals whose scores are high enough that experts think they are in grave danger. The program is modeled after one in Jacksonville, where domestic homicides have fallen by an average 46 percent over seven years even as the number has risen in other cities.