With schools and universities closed for weeks, workplaces being shuttered and entertainment options severely limited, family members are finding themselves spending time together.
While that can be a bonding experience for many, it could also lead to conflicts.
As more families self-quarantine at home, some area law enforcement agencies are preparing in case domestic violence calls start flaring up. Others are hoping for the best, while still being ready.
“We do expect the calls for service to increase due to domestic violence and will continue to respond appropriately,” said Claudette Bennett, spokesperson for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says it won’t predict if domestic violence calls will rise.
“We stray away from hypotheticals so we can’t reasonably predict what will happen with call volume,” said Kaitlyn Perez, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. “I can tell you our Public Safety Communications Center is fully staffed and prepared for whatever kind of call volume we may experience. Likewise, all on-duty personnel are handling calls for service just like we always have.”
The North Port Police Department anticipates families will spend quality time with each other “without incident.” Josh Taylor, North Port Police spokesperson, said the department always prepares for the worst and hopes for the best.
“You might think we would see more domestic-type issues during other similar situations like hurricanes,” Taylor said. “Typically we find that people come together. How long this goes on might change that to some degree. We will see. We have not had a similar incident like this to base a full expectation.
“Again, this is an unprecedented situation. So far, there has been a reduction of issues on area roadways and public altercations,” he said.
Taylor said families may be scared and even bored while the coronavirus lingers.
“My best advice is to just deal with the situation one day at a time and even one hour at a time if necessary,” he said. “Understand it may not be easy and some are scared, but we’re going to get through this together. Be smart and keep yourself educated on the daily changes. Knowledge is power. Wash your hands.”
AGENCIES THAT HELP
If domestic violence situations arise, there are agencies available 24 hours a day to help victims.
Bennett, CCSO spokesperson, said, “The best resource for domestic violence resource would be C.A.R.E. here in Charlotte County.”
The Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies is a nonprofit that works closely with law enforcement and court system to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes. It officers a 24-hour hotline, which is 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465 in Englewood. C.A.R.E. also offers an online chat to help victims at www.carefl.org.
Perez said anyone in Sarasota County who may need help should call Safe Place & Rape Crisis Center. The nonprofit offers free help with injunctions, shelter, children services and crisis intervention. The number for SPARCC is 941-365-1976 and the website is www.sparcc.net.
SPARCC advises if a person is living with the abuser to think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs and avoid rooms with no exits — bathroom — or rooms with weapons — including the kitchen. It’s important to discuss this with family members who are at-risk of being abused.
SPARCC also has partnerships with local organizations that can provide safety for pets if a victim must leave their home.
“The sheriff’s office also offers the ability for anyone in trouble to text-to-911,” Perez said. “Often times we encourage folks who aren’t able to actually call for help, to text 911. This applies to domestic violence situations for sure.”
In North Port, Taylor said there are online resources available for families in need, including Coastal Behavioral Health, Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the Suncoast, Northside Psychiatric Services in Port Charlotte, The Florida Care Center for Early Childhood, First Step of Sarasota and Mental Health Community Centers in North Port.
“These are what our officers use to help with childcare, mental, and behavioral issues and concerns,” Taylor said. “These experts are ready to help.”
HEALTH AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way law enforcement handles calls in some cases. Keeping people safe is the top priority.
Sarasota County deputies on the front line are still communicating with citizens the way they always have, said Perez from the SCSO, “however, they are doing their best to make sure folks communicate any health issues upon contact, particularly during calls for service that require transport and end in arrest.
“Upon being booked into our facility, detainees are being medically screened, as always, for everyone’s safety,” she said.
Taylor said the NPPD is acting differently now that the virus has become more serious.
“We changed procedures with how to handle certain types of calls,” he said. “We’ve given more discretion as to if a non-violent non-emergency call can be handled over the phone or not. We are trying to limit exposure as much as possible while not negatively impacting service levels.”
Taylor said law enforcement will not hesitate to help residents in need.
“Our primary focus is the safety and security of our residents and then ourselves,” he said. “We will do what it takes to keep our residents safe. We’re here to help keep the peace. We are making sure our officers have all the latest info and tools to keep themselves as safe as possible. Unfortunately, being put in the line of danger is a part of working in law enforcement. It’s something that those who have sworn an oath and pledged to uphold.”
Bennett said the CCSO is now restricting response to “in-progress and life threatening calls.”
“We are directing the public to call into district offices to handle other reports such as minor property damage, lost property reports, etc.,” she said.
“When the public calls into our communications center, they are being asked to identify any symptoms they may be experiencing so units can respond appropriately. All staff has received cleaning products to disinfect equipment and are interacting with the community based on CDC guidelines. Our deputies will always take life-saving measures in overdose or any other life-threatening situations.”