Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment Project

In response to high numbers of domestic homicides, multiple Anoka County law enforcement, criminal justice and community agencies joined forces to develop a Lethality Assessment Program, which aims to better identify and protect high-risk victims of domestic violence.

Anoka County Lethality Assessment Program info sheet

LAP partners

Anoka County Attorney’s Office, Alexandra House, Anoka County law enforcement, Anoka County District Court, Anoka County Corrections, Anoka County Public Health, and city prosecutors.

How it works

When responding to a domestic violence call, all law enforcement officers in Anoka County give the victim a 12-question questionnaire to assess the victim's potential risk for escalated abuse or lethality. If the victim is deemed high risk, steps will be taken to address the risk factors, protect the victim and hold the abuser accountable. Steps include:

  • The law enforcement officer immediately connects the victim to Alexandra House, providing the victim access to emergency shelter, advocacy and support.
  • The officer attaches the lethality assessment screening tool to the police report and transmits both to the court and prosecutor by the first court appearance, so a more complete history of the defendant’s actions is available in requesting and determining bail and/or conditions of release.
  • With conditions of release, the defendant may receive intensive supervision as part of bail, or be placed on GPS tracking.
  • Domestic assault cases are all now expedited through court, which can benefit victim safety and recovery, and provide for more offender accountability.

Prevalence of domestic violence

Before launching the Lethality Assessment Program, the Anoka County LAP team was told by national experts to expect about 50% of assessments to come back as high-risk. But the numbers have been higher. Approximately 75% of the domestic violence victims assessed in Anoka County are categorized as high risk.

By the numbers

  • One in three women in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 
  • Countywide domestic radio calls totaled 5,926 for 2016 (includes non-intimate partner domestics).
  • In 2016, the Anoka County Attorney’s Office prosecuted 203 felony-level domestic assaults and 3 stalking cases.
  • Nationwide, 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female. 
  • In Minnesota, at least 18 women were murdered by a current or former intimate partner in 2016.
  • A 2010 study that looked at domestic violence fatalities in the U.S. found that 50% of those murdered had law enforcement intervention at some point prior to their death, while only 4% had ever accessed advocacy services.
  • Prior to Anoka County's LAP, Alexandra House (the county's local advicacy program and service provider) successfully reached domestic assault victims referred by law enforcement 64% of the time. That number is now 81%.
  • Of the 334 high-risk victims referred by law enforcement in 2016, 75% received or are receiving ongoing advocacy services.