2002-11-06 / Editorials

Using Technology To Save Lives

By Michael R. Bloomberg

In recent years, New York has made heartening progress in reducing the crime of domestic violence. Now, thanks to the use of state-of-the-art information technology, police and prosecutors have an important new tool to help them break the cycle of violence that still plagues too many homes.

This month, the New York Police Department began providing prosecutors in Brooklyn with digital audio recording of ‘911’ domestic violence calls immediately after the arrests of the batterers involved. Within 90 days, prosecutors in other boroughs will begin getting 911 call recordings just as quickly. The new digitized recording system provides direct access to the calls from the District Attorney’s office computers. Now, just by entering a name, phone number, address or other pertinent identifying information, it is possible to retrieve a 911 call instantaneously.

This is a major breakthrough. In the past, prosecutors had to ask technicians at the NYPD to trace, retrieve and copy such calls manually. This process was so cumbersome and inefficient that it created a three-month backlog, even though key decisions about domestic violence cases, including the setting of bail and the issuing of orders of protection, are made within 24 hours of arrest. Prosecutors will now be able to play a domestic violence victimís cry for help in open court. This evidence will graphically illustrate the danger faced by the victim and help judges make the right decisions in these important initial rulings. In some cases, it will even allow cases to go forward without the victimís courtroom testimony. That’s important, because physically and emotionally traumatized victims are often reluctant to face their batterers in court.

The NYPD responds to an average of 600 domestic violence calls each day. So the importance of having these 911 calls immediately available to prosecutors—an innovation I called for during my campaign for mayor and which now has been implemented by the cityís Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications—can’t be overstated.

Technology has tremendous potential to improve people’s lives—and there’s no better use of technology than helping to protect the vulnerable and punish those who abuse them.

To report domestic violence and get help, call 1-800-621-HOPE.

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