Everywhere we look Americans are tightening their belts. From Albany and Washington, to the family grocery cart… to nonprofit agencies like DVRC that face repeated cuts in funding just when their clients needs for services increase. It’s a reality; we need to cut spending… but when do spending cuts become so deep that they are dangerous? Some might say that just happened in Topeka Kansas.
A.G. Sulzberger reported in yesterday’s NY Times, "Facing Cuts A City Repeals Its Domestic Violence Laws", that the Topeka City Council repealed a local law that makes domestic violence a crime. Why? Because city and county leaders, driven by budget shortages, are disputing who is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors in Topeka. And like many communities, domestic violence accounts for almost half of all misdemeanor charges, so that’s a lot of court involvement. Consequently, Topeka is focusing on felony crimes and choosing to defer responding to misdemeanors.
What’s the risk in not responding to a misdemeanor level domestic assault? The risk is that domestic abuse is a pattern of power and control, and without consequences the severity and frequency can increase. Making an arrest after a domestic assault is homicide prevention… by decriminalizing domestic violence the community is tacitly condoning abuse and assault. By choosing to sacrifice safety for economy, Topeka may just find an increase in felony-level crimes... like brutal assaults and homicide. While there’s no question we need to make cuts… I don’t think this is the right one. I’m glad I’m not in Kansas.