Pooling authorities’ data in the fight against gender violence

By on 20/06/2022 | Updated on 20/06/2022
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Around the world, violence against women is a huge problem. It has personal, social, and economic costs. One study in Europe, for example, estimated that the cost of violence against women runs into hundreds of billions of euros each year. Law enforcement agencies are key to reducing and preventing violence against women, and many are now turning to analytics for help.

Laura Lopez is an inspector in the Spanish Police Force and is currently head of the VioGén System of the Secretary of State for Security. This system was established in 2007 by the Spanish Ministry of Interior as a key part of tackling domestic violence against women. It specifically focuses on crimes committed by men against women in the context of a relationship.

According to Lopez: “The aims of the system are to help us prevent future cases involving the same perpetrators or victims.”

To accomplish this, the VioGen System is designed to coordinate institutions working within the field of gender violence. This includes law enforcement, social services, penitentiaries, and the Ministry of Justice. Combining information from all these sources helps to take more specific measures to protect victims of domestic violence.

Assessing and responding to risk

The system is based on a risk assessment model that draws on analytical systems and rules.

“We use defined risk assessment forms to identify the level of risk for each person,” Lopez says. “Police protection measures are linked to the different levels of risk: high, medium and low. The system also helps us to develop personalised security plans for each person. This links together both policy measures and engaging the victim to be aware of the situation and take self-protection measures. We also have an automated notification system that will provide important information right in the moment to all the necessary institutions to enable them to take action to protect the victim.”

The system contains a huge amount of data about both victims and perpetrators. It also contains information about the case, including all complaints and contacts. The detail includes the kind of relationship, when the case was registered, all the risk assessments, including how the risk has changed over time, and the measures taken to protect the victim. It covers any judicial involvement, details of any forensic input, and any contact with any services, including social services.

“The system links victims and perpetrators but also ensures that each can also be linked to other people,” Lopez says. “Within any one case, there will be multiple complaints. Victims may also have more than one perpetrator, as well as perpetrators having more than one victim. Each victim has a main unit assigned to follow up their case and protect them, based on their address. If they go on holiday, for example, the protection measures move with them.”

Wide scope and range

There are huge numbers of users of the system, across several agencies and organisations. All users receive training coordinated by Lopez’s team, in a process honed over time.

“We started with law enforcement because it is crucial that police forces take measures to protect victims,” Lopez says. “Training is included in the programme for new police officers. Every year, we also update the training for police officers and specialised units on gender-based violence. When we started to put other institutions on the system, we trained them as we went, and now provide updated training from time to time. Usually, we coordinate with a group of general administrators. They register all the new users and provide them with our training course. This includes data protection and privacy issues so that everyone is aware of the restrictions around the data.”

Lopez adds that data protection is important – but has to be balanced against the rights of women to be safe.

“All the data within the system is protected,” she says. “Access is restricted to specific people. Both victims and perpetrators have rights, and these are governed by both national and European laws. This is important because previously, perpetrators could ask to be removed from the system if they were meeting certain conditions. Now, though, this is much more difficult, because the database is preventive. The data contained in the VioGén System are data of police interest. Therefore, even if perpetrators comply with these requirements, data cannot be deleted if they continue to serve the purposes for which they were collected. This whole system is designed to predict whether a woman who is a victim of gender violence will be assaulted again, but not just that. It also predicts the risk of being murdered, and that means all information is important.”

Find out more about how analytics can help drive better outcomes for citizens here.

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