SPPD Police Chief Update | Domestic Violence Calls Spike

With victims cooped up with their abusers during lockdown orders during the coronavirus crisis, officials say domestic violence has seen a dramatic increase. South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz talked about the uptick Wednesday night during a special City Council meeting regarding COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | SPPD Chief Joe Ortiz

Imposed lockdowns by governments throughout the world may have eased coronavirus concerns, but reports of domestic violence have increased significantly, say health officials.

The stark increase in abuse has received global attention as it lurks in the shadows of so many staying home under self-quarantine regulations during the pandemic. Close to home, South Pasadena Police Chief shared during a special City Council COVID-19 update meeting Wednesday night that earlier in the day Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Hilda Solis said calls to the county domestic violence hotline have almost doubled over the past three weeks.

Those who experience domestic violence say they are being trapped inside their homes with their abusers, isolated and unable to receive the help they need in avoiding attacks.

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According to the World Health Organization, one out of three women in the world experience physical and sexual abuse in their lifetime.

Services to combat the crisis “are vital now more than ever,” Keith Scott, the director of education at The Safe Center, a Long Island, New York-based domestic violence resource center, told ABC News. “Abusers thrive off of power and control. Right now, an abuser could be controlling an entire household. It’s harder for [victims] to reach out, it’s harder for them to be more private.”

With the input from South Pasadena’s Public Safety Commission and partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, Ortiz said a “very robust public awareness campaign” about the topic was put together in mid-April. 

“This campaign continues to provide resources and contact information to those victims of abuse or domestic violence that are afraid to report the crime,” he told the council. “We checked the number of incidents that occurred, involving domestic violence that have occurred in our city, using the month of February as the baseline for data. We queried all calls involving mental health, domestic violence, any type of disturbances, assault and battery.”

The police chief talked about the uptick in incidences, saying:

  • “From February through March we had a 9.5% increase in these types of calls.”
  • “From February through April we had a 41% increase in these types of calls. We rolled out the campaign in mid-April.”
  • “From February through May, we had a 22% increase in these types of calls. It appears our outreach and campaign efforts may have paid off.”

Ortiz touched on a variety of other key issues during his update. “I want to remind our residents that Public and private gatherings of any number of people outside of a single household unit are still not permitted,” he said. “A colleague of mine recently said that he and his police department were not the facemask police. I don’t necessarily agree with this statement. Still, I will tell you that I think it is all of our responsibility to continue to be courteous of others, and I suggest wearing a mask when out in public.”

In partnership with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, Ortiz stressed that health orders will be enforced. 

With higher than usual temperature experienced by South Pasadenans earlier this week, Los Angeles County established eight cooling centers, which Ortiz explained are operational from May 26-28, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, go to ready.LAcounty.gov/heat.

Closed on account of the virus, Ortiz said the Los Angeles Superior Court is preparing to resume court hearings beginning on June 22, the and Clerk’s Office will reopen on June 15. For more information, go to lacourt.org.

He said the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro), noting: “Metro continues to require all riders on buses and trains to wear face coverings until further notice.”

Ortiz said Southern California Edison continues to schedule critical outages during the COVID-19 situation, adding: “Interruptions are necessary to protect public safety and reduce wildfire risk.” 

Many churches and synagogues, he explained, will be permitted to reopen at decreased capacity under an order issued last Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “For more information on this, I reached out to our police department chaplain for an update on the opening of houses of worship in our city,” said Ortiz. “I learned that a vast majority of churches are still working on their facilities and planning for the in-person worship. Most don’t see the opening taking place until at least July of this year, if not later. The Mosaic [on Fair Oaks Avenue] may not begin until early 2021. Our chaplain is aware that there is one church that is planning on holding (in person) worship services starting this Sunday.” 

As he’s done each week alongside, but a safe distance from South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle, Ortiz concluded by saying: “Please know that your city is safe and your staff is healthy. On behalf of your Public Safety Team, we thank you for your continued support.”