HOUSTON (AP) — Domestic violence cases have sharply increased in Texas in recent years.
Figures from the state Department of Public Safety show more than 214,000 wives, husbands, girlfriends and others were injured or died in 2016 at the hands of a family member. The statistics show that’s an increase from about 193,000 in 2011.
In Houston, local police report they received more than 24,000 domestic violence cases in the first 10 months of this year. That’s a 45 percent increase over a similar period in 2013, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“We continue to underestimate the reach and devastation of domestic violence,” said Gloria Aguilera Terry, chief executive of the Texas Council on Family Violence.
The Houston Police Department operates a special victims division and has been posting special crimes officers at women’s shelters across the city to help victims more easily report cases of domestic violence, said Capt. David Angelo, who oversees the division. Angelo said that domestic violence investigations are an “absolute priority.”
“We recognize a husband who batters his wife may be a murderer tomorrow,” he said.
The gunman in the recent church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had a history of domestic violence. Investigators found that Devin Patrick Kelley had been given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force after pleading guilty to assaulting his first wife and stepson.
Victim advocates said the shooting is an example of how domestic violence often spill out into public spaces. More than half the country’s mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, in which at least four people were killed with a gun, were related to domestic or family violence, according to a study by Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that focuses on firearm regulation.
“Up until now, the media would lose interest in a shooting once they found out it was a domestic violence incident and not a ‘real’ crime,” said Amanda Johnson, with the Dallas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Sutherland Springs is a game changer.”