A search of RAIDs online shows 509 different criminal reports filed by the Newton Police Department in the first half of 2017.
Domestic disturbances are among the most investigated incidents in Newton by Newton Police — and when compared to some crimes the numbers are not even close.
“Domestic violence is the one crime that is not centered in any one population,” said Brandon Deck, lead domestic violence investigator for the Newton Police Department.” Sometimes you can find burglaries or drug related crimes are in one part of town or centered in one demographic, but domestic violence effects people in poverty, people who are wealthy, people with jobs. … It is universal. Unfortunately it crosses most boundaries we have in society.”
Deck started working domestic violence cases full time for the police department in November, though the department has had a full time position dedicated to the investigation of domestic violence cases for several years.
“I don't think you are seeing an increase in the number of incidents that occur, but you are seeing a more accurate representation of what is happening as people are more educated about domestic violence and people are more apt to report it,” Deck said.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as: the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.
Domestic disturbances are combined with assault and battery cases in RAIDS online in the Assault-Other category. Of the 262 incidents listed, 177 were classed as a domestic disturbance and 63 others as “offenses against family or children” with 42 listed as assault and battery.
That nugget — that domestics are the most reported and investigated crime in the database — does not surprise Lt. Scott Powell with the police department. It is a fact he calls unfortunate.
“The bright side is we are doing what we do. We are not looking the other way with them,” Powell said.
According to Jan Jones, director of SafeHope (formerly the Harvey County Domestic Violence Task Force and Safe House), the organization fields an average of six calls a week. The safe house, with an official capacity of 10, is full about 80 percent of the time. Jones said in extreme situations, as many as 16 people have been sleeping at the shelter.
SafeHope, the police department and county sheriff's office have been collaborating since 2014 on a project that when a call comes to 911, SafeHope counselors assist law enforcement with the calls.
SafeHope is working on changing safe house services and locations of the staff offices by relocating to what was once the Harvey County Health Department on Oak Street — along with expanding into McPherson and Marion with outreach offices.
Jones said she has added eight new staff members in the past few months.
“That doesn't stop domestic violence from happening,” Jones said. “And domestic violence increases the safety risk of not only law enforcement, but the other members of a household.”
According to Deck, and Jones, those RAIDS numbers are not even complete.
“That is on the light side,” Deck said. “We have a disturbance involving family members; boyfriend/girlfriend; husband/wife, anything of that matter we will write a case whether it is department information or criminal case … we have 265 domestic related cases.”
A department information case is a situation where the police department was called, but not a crime committed.
In comparison, there were 118 drug violations listed for the time period, 171 thefts and just 14 sexual assaults or sexual offenses.
According to RAIDs online, 8:30 p.m. on a Monday night is when the highest number of calls come, though Sunday is the busiest day of the week with nearly 45 calls during the last six months coming that day.
One of the difficulties seen by police, and by Safe Hope, is families that establish a pattern. In the database are locations that in the past six months have been visited multiple times — as many as five incidents.
“What happens with domestic violence is it happens over and over again,” Jones said. “Recidivism is huge with domestic violence. Victim's safety, offender accountability and systems accountability is huge. Being able to work together in response for the whole process, (is important) and Harvey County has done a phenomenal job is responding that way."
While recidivism is an issue, Deck said that seeing those same locations repeatedly in the database does not necessarily mean multiple trips by law enforcement there.
“You may also see us generating multiple reports out of one call,” Deck said. “We might find a couple that has been having altercations that entire month or week and they did not feel comfortable calling law enforcement, or were not able. … They spill the beans and we learn about more than one incident than the one we responded to. I find that in my follow up work as well.”
About this story
Kansan Editor Chad Frey was using RAIDs online to check what kinds of crimes were investigated by the Newton Police Force, and creating density maps for different kinds of crimes, when he discovered the most investigated crime in the past six months was domestic assault.
Why this is important
Domestic violence investigations are now done by a full-time investigator with the Newton Police Department, with assistance by a local task force. The local safe house, with a capacity of 10, is at capacity about 80 percent of the time. Safehope is moving offices, and expanding shelter services, in a new facility on Oak Street.