Thursday, June 29, 2017
Flagler County Sheriff Targets Domestic Violence: So Is Rebarbative St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR AWOL?
St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR -- JEREMY BANKS' protector since 2010 -- is AWOL when it comes to domestic violence by his deputies and other wife-beating spouse abusers.
Flagler Sheriff kicks off domestic violence campaign
By Matt Bruce
Daytona Beach News Journal
Posted Jun 28, 2017 at 6:27 PM
Updated Jun 29, 2017 at 9:10 AM
PALM COAST — The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office kicked off its campaign to thwart domestic violence, a growing problem in the county, by hosting a community discussion Wednesday afternoon.
About 65 people filled the main ballroom inside the Hilton Garden Inn for Wednesday’s summit. The collection of attendees included Flagler sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers in the county, judicial officials, mental health experts, court administrators as well as county government representatives.
“The dynamics of a domestic violence case are unlike any other criminal case that we have,” Public Defender James Purdy said. “It is the only area of criminal law where the night before trial, the victim and the defendant generally are sleeping in the same bed together.”
Staly said the goal of the summit is to start a community dialogue and examine on the issue from all sides. At the end of Wednesday’s session, the stakeholders were assigned to committees that will work to devise a plan to reduce the number of domestic violence cases in Flagler and release a comprehensive report within 120 days.
Statewide, the rate of domestic violence has plummeted more than 43 percent since it peaked in 1997, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data. Flagler’s rate had fallen pretty steadily since it peaked that year, hovering around 600 reported offenses per year since 2005. But an 8.1-percent spike in 2016 caused the county’s highest domestic violence rate since 2007.
The issue is not one whose surge is limited to Flagler. FDLE statistics show the steady downward trend of domestic violence incidents across the state is not reflected in Volusia County, where 4,724 incidents were reported in Volusia in 2016 – a 30 percent increase over the last decade.
The Domestic Abuse Council for Volusia County provides a shelter and services for those fleeing domestic violence in the area, but CEO Angie Pye said the nonprofit often works with the Family Life Center in Flagler to take in or send victims if one shelter gets too full.
While FDLE numbers show the incidents that are reported, Pye said it’s hard to tell the real numbers since many victims don’t report domestic violence incidents. She said numbers may show a decrease in incidents, but in her experience, the amount of victims seeking resources and shelter is increasing.
“Because victims are afraid — and they have a lot of good reasons for not wanting to be involved actively in those types of criminal justice processes — that makes it more difficult for the prosecution,” Pye said.
Trish Giaccone, the chief executive officer at Family Life Center, said the shelter has served 114 women and 95 children this fiscal year, and another 144 families through its outreach program. The 32-bed facility is Flagler’s only certified shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“It’s great that we’re here today,” she said. “It’s great that we’re coming together now. But this has to be just the beginning of it. We have to continue to have this very candid conversation and see what we as a system can do.”
Seventh Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza was on hand and called domestic violence the single greatest crime problem in the criminal justice center, indicating one of every four murders prosecuted in the four-county circuit is domestic related.
He said the high Volusia numbers is why the Seventh Circuit started a new domestic violence task force last fall in east Volusia.
The new task force includes two prosecutors that only handle domestic violence misdemeanors in east Volusia and an investigator that focuses solely on domestic violence investigations. Larizza said he recently assigned one attorney to handle nothing but domestic violence felonies as well.
The task force also includes an attorney in Putnam County that focuses only on domestic violence misdemeanors and felonies and seven new victim advocates in Volusia to connect with victims within the first 24 hours.
“We’ve got to find a way to provide resources for these folks to keep them safe,” Larizza said. “We’ve also got to find resources that will help enable them to feel confident and comfortable to participate in the criminal justice process.”