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Female Spouse Abuse and the Police Response: The Charlotte, North Carolina Experiment

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 83 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1992) Pages: 73-119
Date Published
47 pages
This article reports the results of an experiment in Charlotte, N.C., that assessed the relative efficacy of three police responses to wife abuse; possible explanations of the results are considered, and policy implications are discussed.
The police responses assessed were advising and sometimes separating the couple, issuing a citation for the offender to appear in court, and arresting the offender at the scene of the incident. A brief historical overview documents the traditional lack of police intervention in domestic disputes. This is followed by an examination of public use of police services in such incidents and a review of changes in the role of law enforcement. Baseline data on the universe of calls for police service are provided; however, the primary focus is on the methodology and results of the Charlotte experiment. The report delineates the relative failure rates of each of the three police responses in deterring subsequent abuse; recidivism as measured by rearrest of the offender is compared with victim report of recidivism. The report concludes that even through arrest was not shown to have a particular deterrent or punitive value, it may still be a more conscionable choice than nonarrest. No arrest may indicate to abusers that their behavior is not serious and suggest to victims that they are without police protection. It may also communicate to the public that violence that is intolerable when inflicted by a stranger is tolerable when inflicted by a family member. 8 tables and 137 footnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1992