What factors contribute to higher rates of domestic violence? How can the state of Missouri allocate resources to respond to instances of domestic violence more effectively?
Dr. Brett Garland, associate professor of criminology, and Dr. Ron Malega, associate professor of geography, both at Missouri State University, recently received more than $50,000 from the Missouri State Highway Patrol to map trends of domestic violence across the state of Missouri.
Public affairs and public safety
Their research, said Garland, engages the public affairs mission in more ways than one.
“This project is activating research on campus between two separate colleges,” said Garland. “It shows that we can utilize different resources from across the campus and pull those together and direct them toward a specific research project.”
This process of working together to find solutions to community problems can help foster strong relationships between the university and the local community, according to Malega.
In addition to strengthening the university’s ties to the community, Garland said their research will also contribute to strengthening public safety.
“There is agreement across the state that domestic violence is a problem, and public affairs initiatives should address public problems,” said Garland. “Anything that you can do to inform the broader public about domestic violence, the more empowered people will be to actually remedy that public problem.”
Identifying predictors of crime
Every arresting agency in Missouri submits data to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, where it is catalogued and entered into a database. The first stage of Malega and Garland’s research will focus on using this database to create a spatial description of where instances of domestic violence are taking place on a county level.
“Over the course of several years of data, we’ll find out which counties have a disproportionate amount of domestic violence,” said Malega. “We can also look at the characteristics of these counties as places.”
This part of the research will look to see if there is any correlation between social factors and rates of domestic violence.
“Space and place affect crime,” said Malega. “A certain number of residents or establishments account for a disproportionate amount of crimes.”
Identifying these repeat places and spaces, such as bars, houses or downtown areas can help law enforcement to identify where they should focus their resources.
Resource distribution and future research
Once their research is completed, Malega and Garland hope it can be used to provide local officials with information to better understand the factors surrounding domestic violence.
“This information will be valuable to law enforcement because it can guide resource distribution across the state to better address domestic violence,” said Garland. “Using this information, law enforcement will be able to target where it’s happening and where it’s increasing.”
Future research will focus on identifying correlations between individual characteristics and rates of domestic violence as well as taking a closer look at the frequency of domestic violence within specific cities and neighborhoods.