Police seeking to raise awareness

After a spike in domestic violence calls in Havelock last year, Police Chief David Magnusson sees a good trend this year.

“There has been a monthly decrease and we want to see an even greater decrease,” said Magnusson. “Any type of reduction that you see in this crime is very, very welcome. That’s really good to see, and I would like to see it drop even more.”

Havelock police responded to 176 domestic violence calls in 2015, but Magnusson said those calls have decreased so far in 2016. Through August, police have responded to 83 such calls this year, as opposed to 118 domestic violence calls through August of last year.

“We’re still quite a bit behind from last year,” he said. “If we’re looking at 83 right now, even if we doubled it, we wouldn’t reach 176. If we see upticks, we are going to look very carefully at what is causing it. Right now, I am comfortable with the decline that we’re seen thus far.”

Domestic violence calls can not only leave physical scars, but also mental ones. And in a household with children, domestic violence can have lasting effects.

Magnusson said domestic violence is unlike any other crime police face.

“It’s difficult for police. We get called after the fact,” he said. “We can’t stand there with our ear to the door to assume something is going to happen. You can’t really stake out for domestic violence related issues like you can for robberies or narcotics. But what we can do is try to raise awareness.”

As part of that awareness, the police department is helping sponsor a Zumbathon from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Havelock Recreation Center. Proceeds go to support the Coastal Women’s Shelter, which helps victims of domestic violence.

“We do know from the Coastal Women’s Shelter that it takes numerous times of domestic violence before a victim even tries to leave and then it takes a couple of times leaving before it sticks and that’s it,” Magnusson said. “So that being said, if our raising awareness can keep a number of victims, both men and women, from being victimized again, that’s going to lessen the calls.”

Ashley Shivar, a victim advocate at the Coastal Women’s Shelter, said any domestic violence is too much. The organization has helped give classes to Havelock’s officers about teen domestic violence and how to help victims.

“We basically told them to listen and to try to look for evidence,” Shivar said. “Don’t get frustrated when they get called back a million times or when they see that the victim has gone back to the abuser because it’s typical that that usually happens.”

Shivar said the shelter has seen a decrease in domestic violence this year as well. The women’s shelter served 468 victims last year, she said.

“We’re trying to spread awareness in the community,” said Shivar. “We’re trying to do a lot more outreach and we’re also trying to go into the school systems. We have gone out into the community a lot more than we have in previous years.”

Shivar said that victims need to know that there is a place for them to come.

“If they come early enough in the relationship or when they start to see red flags of abuse starting to happen, they could nip it in the bud before it gets to the point where it turns into physical abuse or anything serious like that,” said Shivar. “I think that getting out into the community and letting the public know everything that domestic violence consists of is important.”

Early signs are control issues, jealousy or demeaning comments, Shivar said.

“With the younger generations, when their boyfriend or girlfriends get mad at them for talking to the opposite sex, they think that’s really cute, but in reality that is control and that is one of the red flags of domestic violence,” Shivar said. “Every couple gets into a fight. That will happen every once in a while, but when it’s on a regular basis, that’s not OK.”

Information is available on the Coastal Women’s Shelter’s website at www.coastalwomensshelter.org. For emergency help, the shelter’s crisis hotline is 638-5995.

Tickets for the Zumbathon are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. The event includes licensed Zumba instructors as well as refreshments, door prizes and raffles.

For more information on the event, call 638-4509.