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Could Yesterday's Two Valley Murders Been Prevented?

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The answer is yes, there was good chance that these two domestic violence related homicides could have been prevented. If it took place in another part of the city, say the Van Nuys area, Eagle Rock, Hollywood, South LA, or even the Pacific Palisades, something maybe could have been done. Though, in Tunjunga where two murders took place yesterday, under the jurisdiction of the the LAPD's Foothill Division, the funding just wasn't there for a program known for its "homicide prevention."

The Domestic Abuse Response Team, known as DART, is a partnership program between the police and volunteer advocates who travel the DART car with an on-duty officer. Created in 1993 out the Major Assault Crimes unit, DART services victims of domestic violence in a timely fashion: documenting the history of the relationship and doing crisis intervention.

When domestic abuse is reported, ideally, it plays out like this: a regular unit responds, takes a report, clears the scene for safety. Then the DART car arrives with a specialized officer and a trained volunteer. They've seen this many times before and most importantly, they know and under the the patterns of how this all plays out between the victim and abuser after the incident. It's this hands on and timely work that is so crucial to saving lives and helping the victims get back on track.

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Many officers agree that DART is the most effective program in dealing with this type of crime. The problem is, it's not fully funded. Currently, only seven of the nineteen LAPD stations have this program. The station provides a full-time officer out of their budget (about $150,000) while city hall kicks in the rest, which ends up being only around $125,000 per station.

Not including the officer, the city currently spends around $500,000 on the program total (one station, Pacific Division has state funding for DART). Expanding this program to all police stations would likely triple the current spending, but come on, really, in a city this large, that's a drop in the bucket (unless you're in a budget crunch like we are now).

Is a program that finds itself effective in homicide prevention worth it? Members of the Los Angeles City Council, we're sure you know the answer to this. Get a move on it.

Photo by CarbonNYC
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