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DA Wojtaszek: Domestic violence cases up since COVID-19

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Wed, Apr 8th 2020 10:00 am

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek said domestic violence cases in Niagara County have significantly increased over the same time period last year, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic that ordered people to remain in their homes as much as possible.

She said, “Sheriff Filicetti and I recently evaluated the number of domestic violence arrests. According to our numbers, domestic violence arrests from Jan. 1, 2019, through April 6, 2019, totaled 674. During that same timeframe this year, the total number of domestic arrests rose to 773, nearly 100 more cases countywide.”

Wojtaszek, who has been involved in domestic violence prosecutions for much of her career, said times of intense stress often lead to an increase in domestic violence cases.

“In many households, we may have a confluence of events that can include family isolation and social distancing, anxiety over COVID-19, perhaps job loss and other economic stress, home schooling children and so on,” she said. “This can be a very troubling mix that leads to domestic violence.”

Wojtaszek said violence in the home is not just physical. Domestic violence includes verbal, emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse. Violence in the home can also involve animal abuse.

“For any individual or family who may be struggling or experiencing violence in the home, I want you to know that you are not alone,” Wojtaszek said. “In addition to law enforcement, it is important for each resident of Niagara County to know that there are many support agencies that continue to be available to you. Shelters and housing also remain available during this health crisis.”

Wojtaszek said there are many individual agencies to assist families in Niagara County and specifically mentioned the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier’s 24/7 domestic violence hotline. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, and provides phone counseling, support and referrals to emergency shelter or housing. The YWCA domestic violence and sexual assault hotline is at 716-433-6716.

Wojtaszek also pointed to Pinnacle Community Services of Western New York as another resource with a round-the-clock domestic violence hotline and, as well as the Passage House shelter. Pinnacle can be reached at 716-299-0909.

“And always remember, in the event of an emergency, call 911,” Wojtaszek said. “If you know a friend or family member who may be in a domestic violence situation, encourage them to seek assistance. We are here for them.”

Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte said he has assigned extra units to patrol, as the River Region has seen an uptick in both domestic violence and property crimes.

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