Fostered, if not mandated by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin all passed laws making arrest mandatory in domestic violence cases. In addition Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, and Tennessee passed “preferred arrest” laws that amounted to the same thing.
In the year 2000 I began looking at what impact Colorado’s mandatory arrest law had in Colorado Springs, one of seven cities in the United States where the mandatory arrest policy had been tested prior to becoming law. Initially I plotted police data for the ten-year period from 1990 (before the law was passed) to 1999 (five years after mandatory arrest became law). That plot was later expanded to the fifteen-year period from 1990 to 2004 and is shown below.
Plot of fifteen-year compilation of 911 calls and arrests for simple assault in Colorado Springs, Colorado, versus increase in population
There is a spike in 911 calls for domestic disturbances in 1994. But by 1995 the word about the consequences of calling 911 in a “domestic” had spread like wildfire and 911 domestic disturbance calls dropped dramatically, and kept dropping as shown by the red line in the above plot. Clearly, the draconian police response mandated by the 1994 DV laws primarily acts to deter citizens from calling 911. Subsequent research by others found the same result in at least three other cities. (more…)