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Wednesday, April 25 News

Domestic violence

We need to face a problem that's everywhere

In Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, an alliance of law enforcement, community and social service agencies have pooled resources to crack down on and change the culture that spawns gun violence.

Called Project Longevity, it uses hard data to identify potentially violent individuals and groups, and approaches them with carrots and sticks.

The effort is making headway, but that story is one for another day.

The same model, though, could be applied to Connecticut's serious domestic violence problem, from the cities to less-populated areas such as Greater New Milford.

Consider some of the chilling statistics: Domestic violence is the second-leading cause of murder in the state, just after urban young men shooting each other.

Since 2000, an average of 14 people have been killed in the state in domestic violence cases.

And we're on pace to exceed that number in 2014, with 10 domestic violence deaths through the first seven months.

Fully a third of the criminal cases in state Superior Court are domestic violence-related.

These are not crimes in the streets, but in the homes of our neighbors.

Domestic violence is not a poor person's crime, nor is it more prevalent among the wealthy.

It's everywhere.

Michael P. Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning in the state Office of Policy and Management, notes domestic homicides are largely preventable by identifying the most at-risk individuals and intervening appropriately, either with law enforcement or with the specific help that can ease a situation.

Some advocates are planning a special effort to reach out to the state's Spanish-speaking population.

That's a fine idea, but given the ever-changing landscape of the state's cities as new immigrants come and go, there are many subsets that officials should try to reach.

Another chilling statistic is that in 2012, eight of the 11 domestic violence-related homicides were committed with a firearm.

So an important part of the overall effort is what's being done in Washington by Connecticut's U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who recently offered a bill that would help keep guns away from domestic abusers.

Obviously, any sort of proposed restriction on gun ownership brings a frenzied reply from the NRA supporters in Congress.

One would think an effort to protect victims of domestic violence from armed abusers would generate lots of support.

Just as the Project Longevity folks are emphasizing in their approach, gun violence tears apart the communities in which it occurs.

No less, we would argue, does violence in the homes of our neighbors, wherever we live. We need to recognize the signs and work together as a community.

It's human nature to look away from signs of violence, but this is one that we need to face.

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