ALERT: Community Response Required NOW

Last week, we finished our interviews and filming for our documentary about High Point, NC.  While we were there, a woman (and mother) was murdered by her abuser. This was the first instance of a Domestic Violence homicide in High Point where the offender had been notified, and was on the watch list.

We always knew it would happen one day. Domestic Violence is with us like a disease. There is no “cure.”  But there are steps we can take to inoculate the public against widespread serious injury and homicide.  This is what they’ve done in High Point.  This philosophy and approach is the thesis and social commentary that drives our film. Considering this is the FIRST homicide among known offenders in 5 years, the results have been impressive.  Even life-changing.

But, #EVERYDVVICTIMMATTERS.  In High Point, they recognize domestic violence is a public safety issue.  Domestic Violence (a.k.a. Intimate Partner Violence) crosses race, income, gender, geography – every known variable you can track.

The system is not perfect in High Point, but it’s the best there is that I’ve seen after nearly three years of working full-time on this horrific, devastating social epidemic.

This morning, I saw an alert that went out to the entire community:

ALERT:

“I was just asked by HPPD to rally all concerned HPCAV Associates and others who are concerned about our violence in HP to come to ElmTowers at 2pm today (7/21/17) for a Domestic Homicide Response to share with residents and our community that such violence is wrong and cannot be tolerated

…  We are saddened by such loss of life..  It is VITAL that we gather to show our care, our love, our concern and our outrage against such violence.”

– Jim Summey, High Point Community Against Violence

It takes a village to address domestic violence. Imagine if the community rallied in your town every time a woman was murdered?  I don’t mean with vigils, galas, and 5Ks.  I mean with outrage and a call for action to end the violence.  And a plan to make that happen.

Here in Central Florida, a woman (another mother) was murdered by her abuser, and it was just a blip on the nightly news.  When a cop identified the perpetrator weeks later and tried to bring him in, he shot and killed her too.

Only then, the town turned upside down in a nationally televised manhunt.

What kind of message does that send?  When will every community issue a mandate for zero tolerance for domestic violence?  I can only hope it comes sooner, rather than later. It’s unconscionable to think it may never come.

Update: 75 people showed up for this meeting. 

I Wrote a Song for My Startup

Okay, maybe not exactly original.  Readers of this blog may not have been alive when this song was recorded or popular, so maybe I can get away with it.

My last post was a poetic, meandering bit of self-reflection about how selfish it was for me to pursue a line of work that could negatively impact the people I love the most.

Well, sorry kids.  I can’t do it.  I’m addicted to this work.

Every day, there’s another death. There’s another reason to keep going.  I realize I’m starting over, reinventing myself at the bottom of a low-paying field, yet all arguments to give up fall away in the face of the opportunity to make a real dent in this particular universe. So, I’m continuing.  I took a pause, but that was about it.  I grabbed those bootstraps and yanked harder.

Good news is coming.  I promise.  Stay tuned.

News flash: it’s not about the money.

(But, you know, we do need that to survive… so, I encourage your support.)

 

Big Mountain Data Heads to San Francisco!

Rocky Mountains

Big Mountain Data heads West to participate in a world-class Hackathon

At Big Mountain Data, we believe that we can scrutinize the big data that surrounds the phenomenon of domestic violence and family abuse to find answers to solving this hidden-in-plain-sight national tragedy. With domestic violence affecting 75 women every hour, you have big data. It’s a problem at scale.  One comment we hear consistently when we’re talking to people in the field – at every level and type of organization – is that the data is a mess, so it’s hard to tell what’s working and what’s not in the fight against domestic violence.

September’s media circus associated with the NFL Ray Rice scandal, highlighted many experts and programs around the country.  In a 5-second clip on ABC’s This Week, I discovered Police Chief Marty Sumner of High Point, NC who said:

“In the five years before we began this [program], we had 17 domestic-related homicides.  In the five years since, we’ve had only one.”  – Marty Sumner, Chief of Police, High Point  N.C.

I listened to the clip again and again.  WHAT the HELL were they doing to put up results like that?  I had to find out.

So, I wrote to them.

I received a wonderful response from the department that included two downloadable PDFs that explained High Point’s offender-focused deterrence program.  This approach was exactly the approach we wanted to focus on – offender-based strategies.  I devoured the PDFs and did further research.  Soon enough, I had some ideas of my own how we could even improve upon what they were doing, and achieve greater exposure for their success story.

So I reached out to them again.  “Can we have a conversation?”

They liked our ideas and agreed to engage with us collaboratively in an online social network to gather ideas around projects and various initiatives. I brought in outside experts, and connected with their partners.  The first project we’re engaging on together is coming up this weekend in San Francisco.

I’m (more than) pleased to announce The High Point Police Department is now included in the inaugural Hackathon for Bayes Impact, a prestigious Y Combinator-backed nonprofit that applies Data Science for Social Good.  Our project is competing with The Gates Foundation and The White House.  How cool is that?  

challenge

We are supplying four, rich datasets for the data science teams.  We are looking for one specific insight and one more general one.  As it turns out, the officers on the ground have a hunch on some key indicators that may lead to repeat domestic violence.  I choked up when Captain Tim Ellenberger said, “If we can intervene and deter the offender at the precise moment before the first arrest is made, we can prevent the cycle of violence from ever beginning.”  The data scientists will be able to see this indicator in the data.  Our second prompt is focused on the subgroup of repeat offenders and explores internal and external datasets to see what correlations exist that may identify actionable markers.

One of my favorite flicks of all times is, “The Butterfly Effect.”  I know it’s not an award-winning film, but the notion that one could go back and correct a devastating moment in history is a fantasy every victim entertains.  Behavior does not happen in a vacuum.  There are triggers, forces, and sets of circumstances that can be analyzed as discrete data sources. What used to be considered science fiction is now possible by identifying behavioral patterns that can prevent a lifetime of harm, and can even save lives.

It’s very exciting.  If Big Mountain Data closed today and this was ALL we did, I would celebrate heartily.  But, of course this is not all we’re doing. This is day one in our #fightback strategy of preventing family violence from stealing the lives and sanity of innocent victims.  We are fighting domestic violence with math and science.

Special thanks to Ian Thorpe of the United Nations who offered the very cool prize of a private tour of the United Nations in NYC to the winning data science team.