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Keywords:

  • intimate partner violence;
  • police;
  • social services;
  • mandatory arrest laws;
  • National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

Although community responses to the problem of intimate partner violence typically focus on increasing and improving policing and social services, few studies have examined the relationship among police force size, social service providers, and women's safety at home. To address this issue, we use data from the National Crime Victimization Survey to examine patterns of intimate partner violence for 40 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) over a 16-year period (1989–2004). We analyze the data using three-level multilevel models, with individual respondents (N = 487,166) nested within years, nested within MSAs. Net of other important individual and contextual factors, the results show that women's likelihood of victimization is significantly lower in MSAs that employ more sworn officers per capita, whereas the states’ mandatory arrest laws are not found to have significant independent effects. Above and beyond the effects of police force size, we also find a significant negative relationship between the size of the social service workforce and intimate partner violence. Future research should develop collaborative data collection efforts to examine the specific activities of police and social service workers in dealing with intimate partner violence so that the mechanisms underlying these significant relationships can be understood more clearly.