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Jump In Domestic Violence During Kansas City's Lockdown Appears To Be Receding

Overall crime during Kansas City's lockdown has remained stagnant. But rates of some violent crimes have increased.

Although the Kansas City region has seen a surge of gun violence in recent weeks, the anticipated bump in domestic violence incidents during the pandemic appears to be subsiding, thought it depends on how the numbers are analyzed.

Kansas City’s stay-at-home order went into effect on March 24. During the seven weeks since the order, Kansas City police logged nearly exactly the same number of overall calls for service as during the seven weeks before the order, according to data provided by the department.

So the overall crime rate has remained steady. Some crimes, such as theft and robbery are down.

And while domestic violence calls were up between 20-30 percent during the seven weeks after the stay-at-home order, they’re roughly in line with what the city saw during the same period last year, according to KCPD spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina.

Other violent crimes, such as fatal and nonfatal shootings, increased during the lockdown and have also risen compared to last year.

“So it just kind of depends on how you look at it as to whether or not you could say that the data shows that domestic violence is up,” Becchina said.

Federal experts estimate fewer than 60% of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. And some observers have worried that the rate would drop even further because victims—especially children who would normally be in school or daycare—are more isolated than usual during lockdown.

“If you know that there's a couple of young kids that tend to play outside at a house, and you haven't seen them, and you have a good relationship with your neighbors, it's nothing to go over and strike up a conversation,” Becchina says.

The lockdown has been a factor in some of the calls coming into local domestic violence hotlines.

“We’ve heard some horrific stories about (victims) being locked in their house, that prisoner in their own home during this time,” says Scott Mason, director of marketing for the Rose Brooks Center, which offers assistance to domestic violence victims.

“We've had victims on the hotline tell us, ‘I used to be able to get out to go to the grocery store by myself with my children or go to take my child to a school program. Now that's been removed from me, so I don't have the space for my abuser and so go out by myself.’”

Mason tells KCUR that Rose Brooks did see an initial jump in calls to its hotline, but has trended back toward normal levels in recent weeks as the region has lifted restrictions on workplaces and travel.

To ensure safety during the pandemic, Rose Brooks has shifted its services to mostly remote work. And almost 40 families have been placed into permanent housing -- an option that is more expensive than temporary shelters, but one which helps prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Resources for assistance:

Rose Brooks Center crisis hotline: 816-861-6100

Hope House crisis hotline: 816-461-4673

Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault: 816-531-0233

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233.

As a reporter covering military and veterans’ affairs, I tell the stories of current and former service members and their families. I hold the government, elected officials and others responsible when they break their promises. And I explore how Americans can best uphold our commitments to those who serve.
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