CMPD sees increase in domestic violence calls during coronavirus pandemic

Updated: Mar. 28, 2020 at 6:21 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Dee Dee Gatton/ WBTV) - While many people are worried about the coronavirus, domestic violence advocates are also worried about the people who could be stuck inside their homes.

Mecklenburg County has been under a local “stay at home” order since Thursday morning.

Some community members are concerned about the people that could be together in a house and in danger because of domestic violence. "We're looking at a 17 percent increase,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Sgt. Scott Evett said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and domestic counselors believe that the rise in domestic violence calls could be tied to the coronavirus. “It was Hurricane Floyd and I was living in Georgia when I was in an abusive situation 20 years ago,” domestic violence survivor Tonise Gardner said. “My family was evacuating and my abuser wouldn't let me leave."

While coronavirus has forced many into isolation, Gardner points out that it also leaves many vulnerable to abuse.

“It could be mental, financial abuse, it could be sexual abuse,” Gardner said. “It could be going through all kinds of things, especially now that we're quarantined.”

Gardner’s worries are substantiated.

Officials at the Safe Alliance shelter in Charlotte say their calls for domestic incidents are up 40 percent.

"What we're also seeing is a lot of victims have lost access maybe to their job, maybe they're not working right now, so they don't have the same income, resources that they had before,” said Karen Parker, with Safe Alliance.

Those kinds of stressors can trigger violence and lead to more 911 calls. “We are showing a slight uptick in calls for the month of March, this year when compared to last year,” Sgt. Evett said.

Advocates point out, someone may be stuck in a home with an abusive partner, but that does not mean there is no way out.

Even with COVID-19 physical restrictions, there is help available. "We've had to change a little bit with how we work, as far as limiting contact, but again, I want to assure everybody that we will, a patrol officer will respond to the house,” Sgt. Evett said.

Aside from police, advocates encourage domestic violence victims to reach out to friends and realize texting may be a better option.

While protecting your health, have a plan in place should the window of opportunity open up.

“Put some clothes in a bag, even if you have to leave to give that to a friend,” Gardner said. “If you can during this time, try to put some things aside so you can at least have a foundation when you are ready to leave that situation."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they’ve gotten 389 more domestic violence calls this March compared to last March.

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