Special to The Dallas Examiner
Mayor Eric Johnson will continue the work of the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force under a new name: The Mayor’s Domestic Violence Advisory Council.
Domestic violence has been a growing challenge for Dallas in recent years. Family violence-related aggravated assaults in the city increased by 13.6% in 2020 over 2019. And so far this year, those assaults are up by about 7.4%, according to the latest available crime statistics from the Dallas Police Department.
“Domestic violence is a scourge on our city and our society. We must continue to work together in a collaborative way to prevent these crimes and to bring perpetrators to justice,” Johnson said. “A coordinating body remains critical to our efforts, and I look forward to working with the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Advisory Council in the years ahead.”
Beginning in 1987, the city’s efforts to combat domestic violence were coordinated by the task force. It was made up of 40-plus members of various Dallas-area agencies whose primary focus was the prevention and eradication of domestic violence and the support of victims. It also focused on identifying potential lethality in domestic violence situations and ways to prevent lethality from occurring.
In March 2020, Johnson directed the task force to work on recommendations to address five focus areas: police officer training, shelter space availability, transportation accessibility, education and the identification of risk factors and obstacles for services.
After discussing the issues, which were exacerbated by stay-at-home orders and economic hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force released its report in October. The report, which can be read at bit.ly/DallasDVTFReport, served as a call to action for the Dallas Police Department, nonprofit service providers, school districts, Dallas County, municipal judges and other entities. Among its recommendations:
- Increase available shelter space, especially for single women.
- Provide refresher training materials for patrol officers and additional training for domestic violence detectives.
- Expand domestic violence curriculum in schools and train teachers on the curriculum.
- Call on shelters and service providers to build transportation costs for victims into their budgets.
- Hire a victims’ advocate at the Dallas Police Department to assist with outreach, community education and transportation to shelters.
- Count, study and support survivors of near-lethal domestic violence assaults.
- Provide a Lethality Assessment Profile to magistrate judges and probation officers.
- Audit the LAP annually to identify potential gaps.
- Reform the bond process to address potential risks posed by releasing accused abusers.
- Work to ensure domestic violence education, training, outreach and services reflect the diverse communities in Dallas.
The Task Force also recommended that it should continue “as an Advisory Council on Domestic Violence to give our partners the opportunity to implement the recommendations” in its report. Accordingly, the new Mayor’s Domestic Violence Advisory Council will continue to work with Mayor Johnson, private providers and other governmental agencies to implement the recommendations.
The Task Force had been chaired by then-City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who left office Monday after reaching term limits. To ensure continuity moving forward, Mayor Johnson has asked Gates to continue serving as the chair as a private citizen.
“I am honored and pleased to continue as the chair of the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Advisory Council,” Gates said. “Already a grave concern, this issue has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to my continued collaboration with Mayor Johnson, Chief Garcia and other domestic violence advocates to identify and achieve lasting solutions.”
This is the second advisory council that Mayor Johnson has formed. The other is the Mayor’s International Advisory Council, which assists the mayor’s efforts to increase the city’s international stature.