Reports of domestic violence increased in March in many cities around the country as the coronavirus pandemic spread, according to law enforcement officials — raising concerns about families’ safety as they isolate at home.
Of the 22 law enforcement agencies across the United States that responded to NBC News’ request for data on domestic violence calls, 18 departments said they had seen a rise in March, NBC News reports. Houston police received about 300 more domestic violence calls in March than they did in February, a roughly 20 percent increase. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, police fielded 517 additional calls about domestic violence in March compared to the same month last year, an 18 percent jump, while Phoenix police received nearly 200 more calls, an increase of nearly 6 percent.
“The financial stress alone creates a ticking time bomb for some families with a history of domestic violence,” said Steve Mueller, sheriff of Cherokee County, South Carolina, which saw a 35 percent increase in cases in March compared to February. “Unfortunately many of these domestic violence cases occur in front of children and often the children become victims of abuse and assault, as well.”
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The rise in reports of domestic violence incidents comes as shelters for abuse victims scramble to find ways to stay open. Many regularly operate near capacity and sometimes turn to local hotels to house families when they run out of space, which gets expensive quickly. Several nonprofit shelters said they’ve canceled or postponed fundraisers because of stay-at-home orders, blowing six-figure holes in their annual budgets.