Investigators: Choking crimes on the rise

Most cases involve men choking women

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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - In a 24-hour period, police filed charges against 11 men accused of choking their wives or girlfriends.

It may be a new record, but it's not an uncommon crime. Investigators said the motives are all different -- a family fight, a breakup or a drunken night out are a few.

This year, Harris County will prosecute about 1,200 suspects, mostly men with the victims being mostly women.

"Its very common in family violence cases," said Sgt. Melissa Holbrook.

That's one reason Texas changed the law in 2009 to make choking a third-degree felony.

Holbrook said some abusers use it to control their partners because it won't necessarily leave a mark.

But the crime is always terrifying for the victim and sometimes deadly.

Holbrook said, "If you have strangulation in a domestic violence situation it can indicate a possible homicide in future because it can happen so quickly.

"That's a big reason Texas and other states increased the punishment for abusers," she said.

While there are no state statistics available, Holbrook said it's had an effect nationally.

"Since we've started intervening on on misdemeanor crimes and felony crimes and having stronger laws supporting family violence, it has brought down the national rate of homicide and intimate partner violence."

Holbrook said women who are the targets of abusive partners need to make a plan and find safety.

Harris County's Family Criminal Law Division can help with counseling and shelter. To contact the county, call 713-755-5888.

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