The significance and impact of criminal victimization has, in recent decades, elicited a notable change in focus and attention within the criminal justice system. Both increased awareness and knowledge of how crime affects victims' lives have produced a response that was historically nonexistent or, at best, limited. Professionals in the law enforcement arena today are more adept at responding to the specific needs of victims.
Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, of the Los Angeles (California)Police Department has been in the crime-fighting business for 32 years. He understands the need for police departments to have a vested interest in understanding how, where and why crimes are committed, but also recognizes it is important to determine if a systems approach can be utilized to deal with crime. He believes it is vital to conduct a basic analysis of all elements of crime and analyze it in an empirical way.
He believes that police must be more intelligent and responsive to victims. "We have to do a better job of analyzing our victims," he says. Paysinger says this includes the behavioral and economic attributes that distinguish who the victims are, what they look like, the property they carry and the company they keep.Domestic violence
"Domestic violence is a priority. Domestic violence within the home is the epicenter of just about everything we have to deal with on the street. The problem is deep," Paysinger says. He believes education, prevention and intervention are essential to minimizing victimization.
"We tend, in law enforcement, to be far too reactive when there are ideas we can leverage," he says. In his jurisdiction, Domestic Abuse Response Teams (DART) respond to domestic violence incidents. The teams identify social issues that exist within the family component and consider the psychological, sexual and physical dimensions of the abuse.
"The long-term element of DART is the responsibility of conducting a biopsy of the family unit," Paysinger says. "It identifies traits and tendencies in the family unit and provides appropriate resources — municipal, county or state — that will help guide that family back into the mainstream."
Dissecting multicultural differences also embraces criminal victimization. Det. Carlos Selvi of the Baltimore County (Maryland) Police Department specializes in domestic violence, and regularly reaches out to victims. He works with 10 precincts, each with one domestic violence coordinator. Selvi's work is concentrated amongst the Hispanic population. He believes officers need to have knowledge of Hispanic culture, and understand that victims tend to be distrustful of the police and often reluctant to contact them. He advises officers to educate themselves about problems that exist in the communities they work with.
"Be compassionate and keep an open mind," he tells officers. "Do what you need to do. Be as human as you can."
Rural communities are also impacted by domestic violence. Chief Dennis Butler of the Ottawa (Kansas) Police Department has been proactive in combating domestic violence-related problems in his jurisdiction.
"Domestic violence cases are very complex, emotionally charged and difficult to keep on track — especially because of the physical and emotional trauma inflicted upon these victims over extended periods," Butler says. "But, if police administrators implement progressive investigative policies and provide the proper training, officers overcome their reluctance and frustrations once they have the tools necessary to investigate these crimes effectively."
In Ottawa, patrol officers are the first responders and preliminary investigators on domestic violence and stalking cases. They work a range of abuse cases. The domestic violence unit performs a case review on all investigations, contacts victims and performs additional follow-up when necessary.