At present, experts struggle to pin down the cause of rising domestic violence calls in the New York City Burrough of Staten Island. While some health officials cite the increase in opioid use as a possible contributor, they are far from determining a viable culprit. And perhaps there is none. It is reasonable to assume that an amalgamation of factors have contributed to the rise.
In the last five years, Staten Island had a roughly 2 - 3.5% share in NYC homicides. 2016 saw that number hike to 6%. Its share of NYC domestic violence homicides jumped from 4% in 2015 to just over 15% in 2016. But seeing as these percentages deal in relatively small numbers, slight and random increases in a crime will see that "percentage jump" regardless of the actual increase being small. Nevertheless, The Wall Street Journal reports that domestic violence accounts for "almost half of reported felony assaults as of Dec. 25,... and [for] 22 of 47 reported rapes.”
Nine of the 21 Staten Island murders last year were domestic violence related. Arrests made for domestic violence on the island are decreasing steadily every year, but have remained above 2,200 annually for the last half a decade. A measurable rise in domestic violence crimes in the first half of 2016 led law enforcement to direct officers to make more home visits to victims. As a result, 11,300 home visits were made in 2016, compared to the 8,200 visits made in 2015.
Back-to-back domestic violence homicides on the island drew attention to the issue, happening in January and February of last year. Ruben Jiminez was stabbed to death by his girlfriend in her home. Shortly afterward, Michael Sykes stabbed his girlfriend Rebecca Cutler over 40 times. Sykes had a 5-month daughter with Cutler, whom he also murdered. Cutler's other two children, 1 and 2 years old, were likewise stabbed multiple times, although 2-year-old (aptly named) Miracle Cutler survived her 11 stab wounds. Sykes was allegedly motivated by jealousy over Cutler's relationship with the father of her elder children.
While the root cause of drug/gang violence is usually poverty, the underlying causes of domestic violence are complex, variant, and cached in the home - making them far harder to identify and unbefitting of the same police strategy. While law enforcement becomes consistently better at identifying and apprehending violent criminals, it remains difficult to identify domestic violence offenders.
A Staten Island DA was assigned a unit to analyze last year's domestic violence statistics. The NYPD teamed up with domestic-violence-aid organization Safe Horizons to form Crime Victim Assistance Program. Placing a Safe Horizon advocate in each police precinct, the advocate is responsible for drafting a plan of action with the victim while the abuser is investigated. This plan may consist of "getting a restraining order, relocating to a new home or pursuing charges,” according to the program's VP.
Continued collaboration between law enforcement and advocacy agencies looks towards a promising future. Tiana Stowers Pearson, who manages domestic violence initiatives for Community Health Action of Staten Island, personally worked with a young man who'd witnessed and experienced years of domestic violence in his home. A year later the young man himself became the abuser. Pearson and law enforcement then provided diligent counseling to the teen; after completing the program, he is now healthy and employed.