FRESNO – Law enforcement agencies and help centers have a new tool for addressing instances of domestic violence in Fresno County.
The Fresno-based Marjaree Mason Center (MMC), which provides support services for domestic violence survivors, launched a domestic violence data dashboard in partnership with area law enforcement on Aug. 24. The dashboard will benefit the center, law enforcement agencies and members of the public by providing easy-to-access insight into domestic violence trends.
“Primarily, this is an outreach tool so people can see how the community is affected,” MMC data analyst Andrew Castillo said.
The dashboard has been in the works since 2020 and includes data from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) and the Clovis, Fresno and Fresno State police departments. Data from the county’s smaller communities is reported through FCSO.
Castillo said Reedley Chief of Police Joe Garza, who is also on the MMC’s board of directors, was instrumental in getting all of the local law enforcement agencies involved and on board with the specific set of data points they would need to capture.
This type of dashboard is meaningful to the MMC and Fresno County law enforcement officials because there is no other way to track domestic violence trends other than tracing calls that come into local agencies.
Castillo added that having the data aggregated on a county-wide level was a challenge because each law enforcement agency has different record keeping systems and would track different variables related to domestic violence reports. He said that with this dashboard, it is the first time the data is being aggregated at the county level specifically for what the MMC has been looking at.
Accessible through the MMC website, the dashboard shows domestic violence reports from each agency by ZIP code, incident location, race, gender, age, relationship and more. Ashlee Wolf, MMC director of philanthropy and communications, said the dashboard will help target domestic violence prevention and education efforts.
“This dashboard really helps us understand the trends behind domestic violence incidents in Fresno County and what may have triggered or really led to the incident becoming violent,” Wolf said. “(It) allows us to look at certain demographics and age groups to prevent unhealthy behavior.”
For example, Wolf said the data shows that a growing percentage of young men under age 18 are reporting instances of domestic violence. Having that information allows the MMC to tailor their outreach efforts to ensure they are reaching young men on the survivor side of the situation and young women on the offender side of the situation.
Wolf said that could include working with area schools to talk to teens about what unhealthy behavior in a relationship looks like.
“Especially in a world that really highlights toxic relationships these days … that prevention and education with our teens is especially important,” Wolf said.
By making this data publicly accessible, MMC hopes that residents will be more aware of how domestic violence impacts their community and what resources exist for people to seek help from a bad situation or prevent one.
For law enforcement agencies, the data dashboard provides a convenient look at domestic violence in specific jurisdictions and helps agencies communicate with each other more effectively, FCSO Public Information Officer Tony Botti said.
“What it does is it really captures a snapshot of the latest trends in one location,” Botti said. “Rather than us having to go search in a dozen different areas to pull some data together, this lets us go to a one-stop shop and do our research here.”
In neighboring Tulare County, a dashboard like this one would allow Family Services of Tulare County (FSTC), a domestic violence services organization, to better understand the patterns of abuse initiated by specific aggressors and see areas where more prevention outreach is needed, FSTC Domestic Violence Program Manager Alma Borja said.
“That (dashboard) is amazing, and I think that would help our county to really monitor or keep a close eye on (an) aggressor’s behavior,” Borja said.
FSTC collaborates with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) to identify and assess domestic violence cases that are at risk of further harm or could be leading to a possible domestic violence homicide, but Borja said they only have access to reports submitted within TCSO’s jurisdiction. If they had a way to track all cases across the county from all law enforcement agencies, that would give them better insight into each case.
Amy Avila, FSTC chief development and communications officer, said that effort is called the Domestic Violence High-Risk Team Model, which FSTC and TCSO co-lead alongside the county district attorney’s office and the probation department.
“We now know that the escalation of domestic violence to a lethal level follows an identifiable pattern with identifiable indicators,” Avila said. “This collaborative effort in Tulare County focuses on using those indicators to identify which cases are escalating toward a homicide and to find opportunities for the system to intervene early on.”
Borja said FSTC has tried to set up similar teams with other law enforcement agencies in Tulare County to track domestic violence calls in different jurisdictions, “but those conversations have not gone anywhere yet.”
“We’re not giving up,” Borja said. “Those are the things we’re looking for, but as of now unfortunately there’s not a way to track those domestic violence calls.”