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Records request illustrates importance of work by Jackson County group to decrease domestic violence deaths

Domestic violence-related deaths in Missouri increased post-pandemic
Jackson County domestic violence training
Posted at 5:30 PM, May 17, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Records obtained by the KSHB 41 I-Team illustrate the importance of a renewed effort to reduce domestic violence-related deaths in Jackson County.

The Jackson County Domestic Violence Fatality Review (JCDVFR) team held training for service providers at the Lee's Summit Police Department on Wednesday.

The JCDVFR team will review domestic violence-related fatalities in the county to better understand the issue and to be able to prevent them. The team will approach it from the standpoint of prevention, offender accountability, and survivor safety.

After reviewing real cases, the team will suggest ways to improve existing policies surrounding domestic violence, such as identifying homicides and suicides caused by domestic violence.

In addition to the agencies and service providers, the following Jackson County police chiefs stopped by: Chief Graves (KCPD), Chief Dustman (Independence), Chief Forbes (Lee's Summit), Chief Iseman (Grandview), and Chief Muenz (Blue Springs).

"I'm hoping the folks in that room will be able to work together and review each tragic incident and make that better," Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz said. "Maybe determine if there was a situation that could have been proved at a court level or an investigation level or street patrol response level. If we can take anything and improve that and reduce the level of tragic violence in the future, that's our goal."

When the training was announced, I-Team reporter Sarah Plake happened to get back some records she had requested from Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Under law, MSHP must compile all domestic violence-related deaths into a report every year and send it to the governor.

We requested those reports from 2017 to 2022. According to those, domestic violence homicides increased during and toward the end of the pandemic.

In 2017, there were 67 homicide victims due to domestic violence. By 2020, that number was at 71. In 2021, it was 74. In 2022, there were 94 homicide victims.

These numbers coincide with what Rose Brooks Center, a local domestic violence emergency shelter, is seeing. They went from receiving between 400 to 600 hotline calls a month pre-pandemic to now receiving 1,000 calls a month.

Fleming said that because people were stuck at home more often, domestic violence incidents increased, so the number of calls rose.

"Do I know that domestic violence has increased in our community? I don't know that I can say that based on the number of arrests. What I do think, with our partnerships, being able to get the word out during the pandemic, I think so many learned that domestic violence victims and their children and pets were being held captive in their own homes," Lisa Fleming, CEO of Rose Brooks Center, said. "We were constantly getting the word out that help is a phone call away, that we have advocates that are placed in the hospital systems, court systems, police departments, and schools and there are so many different ways for survivors to be able to seek safety."

Looking at the MSHP's records, there were 235 female victims and 223 male victims from 2017 to 2022.

However, males are more likely to be killed by their own fathers, sons, and brothers, while women are more likely to be killed by a husband, boyfriend, or ex-partner.

The vast majority of these cases involve a gun of some type.