Maryland recently has seen a 40 percent drop in homicides related to domestic violence, a stunning change that Tim Stelloh, writing in The New Republic, credits to a screen used for determining the risk faced by victims:
The lethality screen has now been adopted by law enforcement agencies in 14 states, from Barre City, Vermont, to Kansas City, Missouri. Nurses use it in emergency rooms, as do case workers from children’s services departments. Since the Washington D.C. police department introduced a variation of the screen in 2009, domestic violence homicides have been cut in half, according to Elisabeth Olds, co-executive director at safe, an advocacy group. As for other states, there has been no equivalent of the 40 percent decline in homicides that occurred in Maryland, Sargent told me, but it is too soon to expect such dramatic results. In 2008, a Harvard competition named the Lethality Assessment Program one of the country’s 50 best innovations in government.
Yet, as simple as the screen is, it requires increased funding. Training police to use the questionnaire is financially negligible, Sargent told me—the process takes less than an hour. But, if the screen leads to more victims seeking legal help, counseling, or refuge, that means greater costs for the places that provide those services.
David Goldman recently asked me what we should do to protect victims of domestic violence. This appears to be one promising tool.