Boone County domestic violence arrests down for first time in 10 years

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BOONE COUNTY - The number of domestic violence arrests in Boone County are on a downward trend for the first time in 10 years.

Missouri State Highway Patrol records say 2014 recorded 1218 total domestic violence arrests so far, whereas a decade ago, there were 1329 total arrests addressed.

Domestic violence arrests peaked in 2012 within the past 10 years, totaling 1738. MSHP domestic violence arrest totals include cases between spouses, former spouses, people who have a child together (married or not), blood-related people, marriage-related people, cohabitors, former cohabitors and those involved intimately.

Boone County domestic violence arrests 2004-2014

True North is a shelter and counseling center for domestic and sexual violence, and its executive director said emphasis should not be put on the statistics.

"I don't believe that the incidences of domestic violence are decreasing," Barbara Hodges said. "We just don't see that with our numbers."

She said True North serves between 700 and 900 women, children and men in domestic violence situations per year.

I know that domestic violence is very much an underreported crime," Hodges said. "We know that. Statistics show that, and that's been going on for years."

She said that's because there are programs like True North to help out, and it's not easy to report domestic violence cases to authorities because these are complicated relationships.

"So many in the community don't understand that it's a relationship," Hodges said. "They may have been together for many years.They may have children together. It's very difficult to just walk out the door."

"They still have hope that, 'Oh he won't do it again. He says he's not going to do it again,'" Hodges said.

Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit (DOVE) Detective and Columbia Police Officer Randy Nichols said he's not sure why some years have higher rates than others.

"Some years it's going to be down, some years it's going to be up," Nichols said. "The reason why... I would not be able to guess."

Nichols said the DOVE unit and police department would rather arrest and jail domestic violence offenders, but they can't do that unless the judicial system makes that call.

"The ultimate response to domestic violence and whether there is any accountability is up to the judges and the prosecutors," Nichols said. "All we do is we arrest. They file charges, or they don't file charges."

He says it's also up to neighbors, family members and victims to report their dangerous situations.

"You know, we can't make arrests if the calls aren't made, or we can't investigate unless the calls aren't made," Nichols said. "I don't know if you're thinking that we don't arrest more than we used to. That may or may not be, but the reports are still being taken."

He says sometimes they don't have enough evidence or power to make an arrest either.

Nichols said learning how to prevent domestic violence starts early, so the police department or DOVE unit would like to get into middle schools moving forward. That's up to school districts, though.

If you're in a dangerous situation, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), call the police department or a shelter.