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On 13 March 2011, the New York Times reported the tragic arrest of a domestic violence suspect that resulted in the death of a police officer, Alain Schaberger. After a desperate call for help from a 48-year old woman living in Brooklyn, the officer responded and tried to arrest the suspect.
However, the incident turned tragic when the suspect refused arrest and a scuffle ensued leading to the police officer’s fall and consequent death. According to the media reports, the suspect Mr. Villanueva had previous criminal records of robbery and burglary. The New York Times provided a detailed account of the crime scene and the rare incident of a police officer meeting his death while in the line of duty.
The New York Times reported that the police officer’s response was swift, a clear indication of police officers commitment to protection of citizens. Before this arrest, the suspect had committed various acts of violence against the same woman and even he had been arrested three times.
Consequently, the police ordered the suspect not to enter the woman’s residence. The community policing strategy where the neighbors alerted the police of the suspect’s presence helped in the arrest of the suspect despite the event turning tragic. The increasing penalties and law enforcement personnel instead of efficient social programs have led to the recent increase in criminal activities.
Media Criminal Reports
The media reported the incident as a usual response of police to calls of domestic violence; one of the 700 domestic violence incidences reported to the police daily. The suspect’s threats of killing the woman as he gained entry into her residence led to the woman calling the police who arrested the suspect.
However, the arrest turned tragic when the suspect shoved the officer leading to his fall and death as a result. According to reports in the media, the suspect was a past convict of robbery and burglary and had previously accusations of domestic violence against the same woman.
The New York Times reported that the police officer’s response to rescue the woman was immediate. The report also explains the officer’s arrangements that involve follow-up programs after reports of domestic violence. The police had made follow-up visits to the woman after previous reports of violence meted on the woman by the man who she described as her ex-boyfriend. The media also reported that the neighbors were cooperative with the police in arresting of the suspect.
The police had banned the suspect from entering into the building where the woman resided. The police had granted two protection orders to the woman against Mr. Villanueva after previous incidences of violence. This is a clear indication of the police cooperation with the citizenry towards eradicating domestic violence crimes.
The information about the suspect and his intentions was availed to the police after the woman telephoned the police hotline. The woman’s neighbors who reported of witnessing occasional violence against the woman provided more information about the suspect. The law enforcement practices involve cooperation of the police and the community.
This allows less response times of the police to a crime and helps in increasing the arrest rates as identification of the suspects is easier with the help from neighbors. In this particular incident, neighbors who easily identified the suspect facilitated the arrest. The quick response by the police to the rescue of the woman shows that most residential areas are highly policed to protect the citizens against domestic violence and burglary.
Prior to this arrest, the suspect, Mr. Villanueva, had committed the same crime three times against the same woman and had a criminal record of burglary and robbery. The arrest is a form of reactive arrests in response to complaints over minor forms of domestic violence. Previous arrests made the offender to redefine his behavior as a criminal act leading to deviant behavior.
Police arrests have impacts on the attitude of the offender, as he perceives him/herself as a social outcast. In addition, an arrest of a family member, including an abusive spouse, traumatizes the other family members (Lab, 2000, p.41). There are also indirect effects to the offender other than the criminal punishment associated with the arrests. The offender may develop secondary deviance, producing a spill over effect whereby he/she commits more of the criminal acts.
In this article, the suspect had committed the offence against the woman more than once. Arrests resulting from domestic violence have far-reaching ramifications as they affect the offender’s current and future employment opportunities that indirectly affect the offender’s financial support to his family. Furthermore, criminal arrests affect educational and personal relationships involving the accused as arrested people often receive stigma in the society
The negative effects of arrests over minor offenses affect the offender’s social network of family and friends especially the children who witness violent aggression during arrests such that they tend to be aggressive as they imitate what they witnessed. The arrests also have psychological effects on the offenders for it might expose them to behaviors that are more defiant or vulnerability to anger flare-ups especially in cases dealing with child abuse or domestic violence.
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Offender Advocacy Programs
The Family Advocacy Program (FAP) provides help to families facing issues of domestic violence. The program works to prevent domestic violence by “educating the members, providing support to victims of abuse and providing treatment the offenders” (Lab, 2000, p. 44). The program guarantees the victim’s safety and offers the appropriate mitigation measures to the offenders. After assessment of the potential risk of abuse or harassment, the offender is subjected to treatment.
In addition, incarcerated parents can access legal services through advocacy programs that seek to protect children and family members and even the imprisoned parents. The programs offer information, trainings, technical assistance, and litigation to offenders who cannot afford litigation services.
It provides legal services and general information involving the California law to offenders, particularly to female offenders and their families. The State Counsel for Offenders (SCFO) provides prisoners with defense attorneys to help them in legal matters in the state of Texas. The organization offers post-conviction services including appeal against the ruling and criminal defense of prison cases. It also provides family law and defends the commitment of the suspects towards charges in order for them to get bail.
The offenders seeking help from this organization must first contact the unit law librarian who determines the legal nature of their case before proceeding to the State Counsel. Alternatively, the offenders can contact the state counsel for offenders directly. However, the friends or family members on behalf of the offender cannot do this requisition.
Poor people accused of crime are provided with “counsel representation services in all the States as mandated by the U.S. Supreme court” (Lab, 2000, p.116).This is achieved through public defender programs that have part-time, or fulltime staff who provide representation upon request. Poor accused people can also get legal services from contract attorney system where the attorneys provide litigation services for a specified amount over certain duration.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is an advocacy group that litigates on behalf of the imprisoned offenders. It also offers litigation to juvenile offenders and people wrongly convicted of violent crimes. It also offers representation to poor people who cannot afford effective representation in courts and people whose trials have social bias or prosecutorial misconduct.
EJI provides litigation services to the poor marginalized communities especially in Alabama and in the Deep South who do not get fair hearing in the courts. The advocates and policy makers also use reports and manuals prepared by EJI to reform the criminal justice system.
Criminal arrests have far-reaching impacts on the offender other than the penalty of incarceration in prisons. The stigma associated with arrests and imprisonment affects the offender’s employment opportunities, social and family relationships and his reputation. It may also influence deviant behavior whereby the offender commits the same offense repeatedly like in the case of Mr. Villanueva.
Government sponsored litigation services are available to poor defendants. In addition, various advocacy groups also provide litigation services to the accused in terms of defense attorneys. Since the entire process of arrest and imprisonment has a sociological impact on the accused, efficient social programs are alternatives to reduce crime rates, especially domestic violence.
Lab, S. (2000).Crime prevention: Approaches, Practices and Evaluations. New Jersey: Matthew Bender& company Inc.