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Domestic violence charges in New Jersey: context for the data

Crime statistics can be spun in many different ways. To some extent, that is the way it is with all types of statistics. Data simply does not speak on its own; it must be interpreted.

In this post, let's apply that reasoning to domestic violence in New Jersey. To be sure, domestic assault is a significant issue in New Jersey, as it is in every other state in this country. But how accurate a picture of the problem does one get from the assertion in one media story that domestic violence occurs in New Jersey every seven seconds?

 

It's true that there were more than 70,000 incidents of domestic violence reported statewide in 2011. To put this raw number in context, however, it must be noted that New Jersey is a state with nearly 9 million people.

But the overall number of reported incidents has to do with much more than population numbers. New Jersey has formalized the law enforcement response to domestic situations in a very specific law.

That law is the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. It has been on the books in New Jersey since 1991.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act requires every law enforcement department in the state to have a specific team in place to respond to domestic violence calls.

Of course, limited resources may affect the ability of some local departments to respond. But there are also nonprofit organizations that collaborate with police departments in responding to domestic calls.

It does not follow, however, that just because authorities respond to a domestic violence call that formal charges are in order. Determining what happened in a domestic disturbance is not always clearcut, and there are many times when domestic violence charges are simply not called for.

Source: NBC10, "Domestic Violence Occurs Every 7 Minutes in NJ," Queen Muse, August 15, 2013

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