Payson police responded to at least one domestic violence call a day in 2010, according to year-end statistics the department released last week.
A growing concern for officers, domestic violence reports and arrests in Payson rose 20 percent last year — the third year of increases as other crimes have fallen.
While some blame the economy for the increase in violence, others point to a weak response by the courts or a rise in drug and alcohol abuse.
Whatever is driving the numbers, Payson officers are getting more calls for help. Arrests rose 20 percent last year and total calls rose 10 percent to 372. Domestic violence calls remain one of the most common categories of calls in Payson, topping burglaries, thefts and assaults.
Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores said domestic violence poses a very real problem in the county. With domestic violence cases on the uptick, Flores’ office is initiating an anti-violence committee in 2012 “to address directly the escalating problem of domestic violence in our county,” she said.
The county has never had a group working solely on domestic violence. Flores hopes the group can come up with working solutions to help victims and end the epidemic.
“Overall, we have seen an increasing domestic violence problem that I would like to see, as a county, we address,” she said.
At Payson’s Time Out domestic violence shelter, officials are not surprised at the growing number of domestic violence cases — they see the issue firsthand.
The number of women seeking shelter has increased.
Time Out provided shelter to 450 women and children in fiscal year 2011. However, the shelter could have provided refuge to more women if it had more beds, said officials there.
“The minute a bed opens, it’s filled,” said one Time Out Shelter worker.
The shelter saw a jump in new clients as it tried to stretch the available beds.
“Emergency shelter stays were shorter on average, but repeated more often, as victims felt more urgency to return home — reportedly due mainly to financial concerns — but found the need to return again as the cycle of abuse continued,” according to the shelter.
The shelter says it doesn’t blame the recession for the increase, although counselors there note that financial stress does increase the likelihood of family violence.
Police Chief Don Engler said domestic violence often comes linked with other offenses, including drug and alcohol abuse.
More than half of the women who enter Time Out’s shelter report a history of substance abuse.
Counselors note that often both parties in a relationship that degenerates into violence play a role in the destructive pattern.
Nationally, more than one in every three women and one in every four men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey of 2010.
With statistics clearly showing an increase in violence, communities have to come together to find solutions, Flores said.
Holding perpetrators accountable is key say prosecutors and counselors. Doing so can encourage other victims to disclose their abuse knowing they will receive support from law enforcement.