Domestic violence kills 106 North Carolinians in 2011

Published 10:34 am Friday, July 6, 2012

RALEIGH – A total of 106 North Carolinians lost their lives in domestic violence murders in 2011, a decrease of one from the previous year, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced recently.

Of that total, one murder occurred in Northampton County. There were no domestic violence related deaths in Bertie, Gates or Hertford counties.

“Domestic violence is dangerous crime that too often turns deadly,” Cooper said.  “North Carolina must do more to get help to domestic violence victims before they become murder victims.”

Under a state law enacted in 2007, law enforcement agencies are required to report domestic violence related homicides yearly to the State Bureau of Investigation.  This is the fourth year that statewide statistics have been reported.

Of the 2011 murders, 68 of the victims were female and 38 were male. The murders were committed by 81 male offenders and 25 female offenders.

Of the 106 victims of domestic violence murders last year, 13 had taken out protective orders and six of the protective orders were current when the victims were murdered.  One of the offenders was reported to be on pre-trial release for a domestic violence crime when the murder was committed.

Mecklenburg County, with the largest population in the state, also saw the highest number of domestic violence murders, 12.  Durham County, with one third of Mecklenburg’s population, saw 10 domestic violence murders, the second highest county total.  Other counties with five or more domestic violence murders reported include Guilford County (seven), Forsyth County (six), Buncombe County (five), and Cumberland County (five).

The increase in domestic violence murders comes when the FBI’s preliminary crime statistics for 2011 show a 1.9 percent drop in murders across the country. Final statewide 2011 crime statistics for North Carolina will be available later this month.

Domestic violence remains a challenge for communities across the state, Cooper said.

“Law enforcement and crisis works can tell you how much damage domestic violence does to families across North Carolina,” Cooper said.  “Several communities have come up with innovative ways to fight domestic violence and prevent loss of life.”

Protective order alerts issued through NC SAVAN, a program housed in the Department of Public Safety, help victims of crime get custody status and court information about offenders.  Pitt County houses a program that alerts victims of domestic violence when a protective order is served.  Cooper would like to see the alerts made available statewide.

A protective order, also known as a 50B order after the relevant chapter of the NC General Statutes, is a court order put in place to restrain a defendant from further acts of domestic violence against a victim.  These orders are often tailored to fit specific circumstances.  According to domestic violence advocacy groups, protective orders are one of the best safety tools available to victims and should be considered in conjunction with an overall safety plan.

In addition to wider use of protective orders, another tool that could help protect domestic violence victims is requiring supervised probation for certain offenders.  Right now, many domestic violence offenders who receive probation aren’t supervised.  In addition, the legislature recently passed a proposal that would direct probation officers and the courts to monitor offenders’ attendance at abuser treatment programs and make sure they obey the rules.

“Any drop in domestic violence deaths, no matter how small, is a good sign, but victims still need ways to escape the abuse,” Cooper said.  “One tool that’s helping domestic violence survivors stay safe is our Address Confidentiality Program.”

Cooper’s Address Confidentiality Program helps people who have escaped domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking keep their addresses shielded from abusers.  Victims who move to escape abuse can join the program and have their first-class mail sent to an address chosen by the Attorney General’s office.  Mail is then forwarded to victims’ home addresses, which are kept secret.  People can also use the substitute address to register to vote, get a driver license, or sign up for utilities like water and electricity.

People sign up for the program through local domestic violence shelters, sexual assault shelters and victim assistance centers.  A total of 850 participants and their dependents are currently enrolled in the Address Confidentiality Program, which started in 2003.

The state Child Fatality Task Force and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence have also called for more training for those who handle domestic violence cases in the courts as well as domestic violence prevention training and protocols for educators in public schools, Cooper said.

“The efforts of the Attorney General’s Office to track and maintain a database of domestic violence homicides in North Carolina is critical in understanding the devastating impact that domestic violence has across our state,” said NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Beth Froehling. “This information will help inform the development of policies and laws to improve our response to domestic violence which will save lives. Our hearts go out to all of the families and friends of those who have lost a loved one to this horrific crime.”