CMPD, prosecutors call domestic violence an 'epidemic'

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Police, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates are calling for the creation of a Family Justice Center in Mecklenburg County. They say domestic violence is an epidemic in the community.

"Domestic violence abusers are not just dangerous to their own partners they're dangerous human beings," said Sgt Craig Varnum. "They're dangerous to society. Out of the 52 known homicide suspects, 38% had a history of prior crimes of domestic violence."

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say they spend more time investigating crimes of domestic violence than any other crime that they respond to.

According to CMPD statistics, the department averages about 35,000 calls for service a year that are related to domestic violence.

They say in 2016 they responded to over 41,000 calls. 

In terms of criminal reports, police say they made 9,000 criminal offense reports for crimes of domestic violence related. That breaks down to 170 a week, or 25 a day.

They say the numbers prove that victims need comprehensive treatment - so they want Mecklenburg County to create a Family Justice Center where victims can get all the help they need in one place.

"It is extremely important that we create an atmosphere where they are nurtured, where they are empowered," District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said.

Merriweather says other counties in North Carolina and the country have Family Justice Centers.

"That is something that keeps the victim engaged, something that empowers the victim, makes the victim into a survivor," Merriweather said. "And so that's what one of the reasons why the District Attorney's office has committed not only being a champion for a family justice center in Mecklenburg County but also being willing to have a presence in the Family Justice Center."

"What that does is it focuses on the victim," Sgt Varnum said. "It is 100% victim central and it guides that victim down the path to survivorship."

Varnum says communities with Family Justice Centers noticed "radical changes" because "overall domestic violence calls for service go way down."

According to police, so far this year there have been 14 intimate partner homicides; and additional eight homicides from other domestic violence relationships.

Police, prosecutors, and domestic violence advocates believe a Family Justice Center in Mecklenburg will make a big difference in reducing homicides.

"We know that we will have a Family Justice Center in this community. It is up to everyone in this community," Sgt Varnum said. "The citizens in this community and our elected officials to decide when, to decide that it's a priority, to decide that 14 intimate partner victims losing their lives this year is unacceptable and we say no more and we say enough."

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