Attorney general offers ways to combat domestic violence in Nevada

CARSON CITY — Police need to secure instant temporary restraining orders.

People with Spanish language skills should be available to answer 911 calls.

Police in one city should be able to work cooperatively with those in their county.

District attorneys should not reduce domestic violence crimes to lesser crimes in plea bargain agreements.

Those were the kinds of recommendations that state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said Thursday must be implemented to shake Nevada off its pedestal as the No. 1 state per capita in which women are murdered in domestic violence incidents.

Masto, in a conference call with the news media from Elko, outlined 16 recommendations in the first report from the statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.

Masto was in Elko to review the circumstances that led to the death of a woman there.

She said the goal of the review team and similar teams in Clark and Washoe counties is to take a look into the lives of murdered domestic violence victims and see whether there are trends and recommendations that can be developed for police, the courts and others that might reduce deaths.

As an example, she noted that the larger, urban counties have shelters where women can go to escape domestic violence, but such shelters are nonexistent in much of rural Nevada.

“The recommendations are based on our individual analyses of these cases,” Masto said. “We don’t have the answers now.”

A 2010 national study found 35 women in Nevada were killed in domestic violence incidents. That is 2.62 people per 100,000 residents, according to the study, far ahead of No. 2 South Carolina’s 1.94.

The attorney general’s report said that fatalities are trending down, but it gives no actual statistics for Nevada.

Officials could not provide domestic violence death figures for 2011 or 2012.

Masto said that she does not know why Nevada is the worst state for domestic violence fatalities.

“My concern is how to prevent it from happening in the future,” Masto said.

A good first step would be to allow police to immediately issue temporary restraining orders to battered women that would remove the batterer from the home, according to the attorney general.

To accomplish that, judges could be on call for police to contact when they enter a home where domestic violence has occurred, she said.

Masto said there needs to be better communication between police departments.

A battering could occur in one community, she said, while the victim lives in another community in a different police jurisdiction.

Police also might not have access to computer information that details the history of domestic violence complaints that have been filed against a suspected batterer.

The 15 members of the state review team include Masto, a member of the UNLV School of Social Work, the Reno Police Department and the Division of Child and Family Services.

The Clark County team has police officers from various agencies.

Some of the recommendations could be adopted by courts and police agencies, while others might need local ordinances or state laws, Masto said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.