LOS ANGELES — Domestic violence programs in Los Angeles are underfunded compared to those in two other major cities, and are often managed in a “disjointed and inconsistent” way, according to audit findings released by City Controller Ron Galperin Oct. 1.
The city of Los Angeles spends $1.04 per resident and the county spends close to 70 cents on domestic violence services, the audit found. That’s compared with the $4.84 spent by San Francisco, and the $12.75 spent by the city of New York.
At a City Hall event coinciding with the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Galperin called domestic violence in Los Angeles a “widespread scourge” and urged city officials to increase funding for domestic violence-related services.
Also attending the event were Mayor Eric Garcetti, police officials and a collection of city leaders.
“As city controller, I typically don’t find myself advocating that more money be spent, but looking at how little we have spent on these programs, it’s clear we have to make them a priority and commit more money to it,” Galperin said.
Galperin said that even with domestic violence being one of the most under-reported crimes, Los Angeles police receive an average of 48,000 domestic violence calls each year, or about 130 calls per day.
“Women, and particularly women of color in L.A., are by far the most frequent victims,” Galperin said, but added that “Domestic violence is not limited to any culture, gender, sexual orientation, age or income group.”
City auditors also found the city had until recently staffed Domestic Abuse Response Teams (DART) in just 10 of the 21 Los Angeles Police Department stations in the city.
He noted that in the past year the mayor’s office has worked to expand those teams to all police stations, with the city now expected to spend about $1.7 million on funding DARTs in the upcoming year.
Galperin said these response teams respond to just one out of every 30 domestic violence calls due to their limited hours of operations, which were limited to peak times.
“Some divisions had police officers dedicated to the program. Others did not. Hours the program operated varied. In no case did it operate all of the time,” Galperin wrote in his report, adding that DARTs were assigned to police stations based on old statistics that are now, “in some cases, out of date.”
He also said there is no single entity in the city that can effectively manage services for domestic violence victims in Los Angeles.
A Domestic Violence Task Force currently exists with about 30 people from various government agencies and service agencies, but this entity lacks “overall responsibility to coordinate services and programs,” Galperin said.
“The result is services that are too often disjointed and inconsistent,” Galperin said.
Galperin said his key recommendations are that the city increase funding for domestic violence services, set up a “stronger governing body for its domestic violence response,” and expand prevention and education programs.
“The mayor’s office has taken an important, if limited, step in this direction” by funding a program that addresses teen dating violence, Galperin noted.
Galperin also said the Los Angeles Police Department has long undercounted the number of domestic violence crimes in its official statistics by about 27 percent, and he recommended that more needs to be done to ensure that domestic violence crimes are more accurately recorded.
Garcetti announced that he has signed an executive directive to put into action Galperin’s audit suggestions.
His directive responds to the call to end domestic violence by asking city department officials “to step up in the fight against domestic violence,” Garcetti said.
Under the directive, each department will identify a liaison to sit on a task force that will report back with an action plan by March.