The Social Ecology of Family Violence

Donald R. Dixon, California State University at Sacramento

Family violence offenses have been a significant social problem for many years. Unfortunately, it is not a well understood offense. Little is known about the social, demographic or economic characterists of either offenders or victims of family violence. While some studies seek to understand family violence as a crime, little, if any, research exists that establishes a typology of family violence. Some ten years ago the Dallas Police Department changed its response policy for domestic violence complaints from "counsel and cool down" to "arrest the aggressor."

This paper utilizes police data on reported family violence crimes from 1995 through 2001 in Dallas,TX, and incorporates data from the 2000 Census. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology is used to analyze patterns of family violence "hot spots." From this, we use the Census data to identify and analyze demographic, social and economic characteristics of the areas where such offenses are concentrated in geographic space. This will afford law enforcement and other decision makers with valuable information useful in responding to family violence. If we more clearly know who the victims are, and who the offenders are, we can more effectively respond to the crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006