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Phase one of another initiative to crack down on homicides in Jefferson County has launched, and investigators hope it will help the community stay informed and fight violent crime.
Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Ben Short said he has been analyzing crime data from the past few years. When looking at the numbers, he noted a possible connection between domestic violence cases and homicides.
“It was a pattern we were seeing over and over again,” Short said.
Short said after the COVID-19 pandemic began to calm, there was a clear spike in violent crime, and he wanted to confirm that pattern.
Thanks to the Jefferson County Information Technology Services and a federal grant, the D.A.’s office was able to take Short’s hunch and build upon it.
“The District Attorney’s office was very fortunate under the leadership of D.A. [Danny] Carr to obtain a Domestic Violence Innovative Prosecution Solutions grant from the federal government,” Short explained. “That allowed us to hire a dedicated crime analyst who was able to bring my vision to life in the form of what you see with the homicide map.”
The homicide map is a new way for the public and law enforcement to see what is happening in the county in close-to-real-time.
“We feel that to have that information on a public-facing forum so that our community can see that they will ultimately be involved in helping reduce violent crime,” Short added.
The map includes the entire county and is representative of all municipalities and agencies. The dots representing homicides populate to the nearest intersection, so they are not necessarily representative of the exact location where the homicides occurred.
Each homicide is mapped and categorized by color. Dark purple represents a domestic homicide. Red represents a homicide, light purple represents a justified domestic homicide, green represents a justified homicide, and orange represents an unsolved homicide. The interactive map allows users to click on the homicide and view information such as the date of death, the investigating agency, the manner of death, and if there was domestic violence history discovered.
In 2020, analysts found that 53% of homicide suspects had a history of domestic violence. That percentage increased in 2021 to 74%. So far, in 2022, the rate is at 58%, but that number will continue to fluctuate until the end of the year.
If the public is more aware of the connection between domestic violence and homicide, Short hopes they will be more likely to call law enforcement regarding any suspected domestic violence.
The new website also shows pie graphs categorizing means of death and investigating agencies. The Birmingham Police Department currently has the most homicides and is investigating 67.24% of homicides this year.
“We want people to realize this is happening,” Short said. “We want them to know what’s going on within their communities and that we need their help.”
As of right now, only 2022 numbers are available for public view, but Short said the D.A.’s office is working to make the 2021 map available in the coming weeks.
“It’s going to be as real-time as it can be,” said Short.
Short said the goal is to be able to have a year-to-year comparison and work with community partners to formulate crime prevention strategies and to facilitate community outreach.
You can view the map by clicking here.
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