Police chief said crime is serious but increase is not
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURNâ€”The annual number of reported domestic battery incidents in Elburn increased by 50 percent last year, from 10 in 2008 to 15 in 2009. Police Chief Steve Smith does not view the increase as serious for a town of more than 4,000 people, although the crime is, he said.
â€œFrom my years in law enforcement, it (the increase) is not a lot,â€ Smith said. â€œBut is this a serious crime? Yes. It is not taken lightly by law enforcement.â€
He said in Elburn, most of the reported cases of domestic battery did not involve injury; most often they were cases of arguments that escalated to a physical push or shove, and sometimes alcohol or drug abuse played a part in the incidents.
Domestic battery arrests occurred in only about 20 percent of the reported incidents in Elburn, Smith said.
When officers respond to a domestic violence report, they assess and take control of the situation, separating the people involved in the dispute.
â€œIt is our responsibility first to protect everybody, including the officers,â€ Smith said.
Then, the officers talk with the parties to determine the facts.
â€œWas it simply a loud, verbal argument, was anyone battered, did tempers just get out of control and everybody’s calm now, or do we need to do more,â€ Smith said.
If police believe an arrest is warranted, they call the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office while they are at the scene, to ask whether they should make the arrest.
Police often urge people involved in the domestic incidents to separate for the evening, Smith said. The officers also offer them information on local social service agencies that could provide counseling or other assistance to those involved in the dispute.
Smith believes many reasons could account for the rise in reported domestic battery incidents, including economic stress on families and simply that more victims are reporting the occurrences instead of keeping them under wraps.
â€œPeople are becoming more willing to report these incidents,â€ Smith said. â€œThere has been more education about the issue, and it’s being brought out in the open more.â€
Historically, domestic battery cases are under-reported by victims.
â€œPeople are embarrassed about it and think it won’t happen again,â€ Smith said.
But in some cases, a cycle of violence occurs.
â€œAfter a period of remorse and quiet, it happens again,â€ Smith said.
For that reason, officers do a supplemental police report for cases of reported domestic battery that includes a history of all past similar incidents for the person involved so that they are more informed when responding to a call.