Domestic Violence A Deadly Threat

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Payson’s heartening drop in major crimes in 2011 is shadowed by an alarming rise in arrests for domestic violence — up by 20 percent, according to the police department’s latest annual report.

The overall drop in major crime comes in spite of a host of vacant positions in the police department.

It’s tempting to note that the lack of officers on patrol hasn’t resulted in an increase in crime. In fact, the shortage of officers probably accounts for much of the 30 percent reduction in calls to dispatch — since patrolling officers account for many of those calls. However, we suspect residents continue to report most burglaries, rapes, assaults, auto thefts and other such crimes — which suggests the drop in reported crimes reflects a real change on the street.

The alarming surge in arrests for domestic violence presents a more frightening problem.

Unfortunately, the state has slashed support for police struggling to respond to this dismaying epidemic just when they need help most urgently.

For instance, calls to the Arizona Child Abuse Hotline have risen 12 percent to 20,000 in the past six months. That comes along with a 20 percent statewide increase in reports of child neglect, according to a recent state report.

The avalanche of reports has overwhelmed Child Protective Services, battered by the Legislature’s short-sighted spending cuts. Reportedly, the shortage of CPS investigators has created a backlog of nearly 10,000 cases that intake workers thought needed investigation.

Domestic violence accounts for more than 2,400 deaths in the U.S. annually, not to mention more than $8 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Numerous studies attest to the serious impact of abuse on families — even on the children who simply witness the abuse of parents or siblings.

So we applaud the struggle of the Payson Police Department to cope with this vital, heartbreaking problem — as attested to by the rise in domestic violence arrests despite the decline in the number of officers on patrol.

And we hope our readers will give generously to the Time Out Shelter here in Payson, which last year sheltered 450 women and children and hardly ever has an empty bed these days.

And finally we abhor the failure of the Legislature to provide adequate funding for CPS to ensure investigators eliminate that tragic backlog and provide struggling families the support they need or ensure those children grow up in a safe environment.

One life – Two lessons

Gila Community College President Larry Stephenson offers two shining examples of how this country can regain its footing — and find its future.

Son of a carpenter and oldest of eight children, Stephenson scrapped through high school with no thought of college. But when his mind and ambition did catch fire, he packed up his car and presented himself on the doorstep of a community college in Washington.

Fortunately, the staff there took this ridiculously optimistic, poorly prepared young man under its wing. They got him admitted and found him a job picking apples, which proved sufficient to cover the almost free tuition.

He made the dean’s list and wound up with a Ph.D. in geology from Arizona State University.

He has worked in public planning ever since, returning to taxpayers the benefits of his education manifold — both in the taxes he has paid and the work he has done.

So that’s the first great lesson of Stephenson’s life: Education holds the key to the future in our increasingly competitive global economy. A Georgetown University study concluded that people with a high school degree will earn an average of $1.3 million in their lifetimes while those with a college degree will earn an average of $2.7 million. Community colleges remain the gateway to that degree for first generation college students.

Yet the Legislature last year cut $72 million from aid for community colleges and $170 million from the universities, driving an inexorable increase in tuition that will slam the door of opportunity for many.

What then is the second great lesson of Stephenson’s life?

He gave back.

Those who harvest the fruits of an education, must in their turn plant and plow to ensure a harvest for our children and our grandchildren.

So we wish him well in the daunting challenge of leading GCC through the hard times ahead. And we thank him for the lessons his life has already offered.

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