YONKERS, N.Y. – The number of domestic incident reports rose 23 percent in Yonkers from 2008 to 2010, according to Westchester County Office for Women statistics.
The Yonkers Police Department filed 2,039 reports in 2008 and 2,499 in 2010, an increase of 460, according to the statistics.
"We take a proactive approach to domestic violence incidents, and work closely with victim assistance organizations," said Yonkers Police Department Public Information Officer Det. Lt. Patrick McCormack.
"We have a pro-arrest policy in relation to these cases, even when a victim refuses to make a complaint, there are instances where the responding officer can be the complainant and make the arrest if the officer feels that the victim is somehow intimidated or fearful of the suspect," said McCormack. "We also have cameras in each command which are kept in the supervisor's vehicle and used to document domestic violence injuries for enhanced prosecution in relation to these cases."
The police department will be looking into possible reasons for the increase in domestic incident reports, but certainly an increase in the city’s population is a possible factor, he added.
The figures are from 2010, and show domestic incidents were reported everywhere, from cities like Mount Vernon to sleepy towns like North Salem. Mount Vernon, per capita, had the highest number of reported cases, followed by New Rochelle, White Plains, Peekskill and Buchanan.
Nancy Levin, Chief Development Officer at My Sister's Place, says many residents living in Westchester don't have a clear understanding that domestic violence is happening “right in our backyard.”
“It's not a trend or a difference in incidence from year to year. It's a public health issue,” she said.
Nationwide, approximately one in five women have been beaten, coerced into sex or involved in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Ryan Safsel, director of development and community relations for Hope's Door, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester.
“It's a scary thing,” she said. “A day doesn't go by without a news story on violence against women.”
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in the news in recent years.
Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, died in January after she was reportedly choked to death. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Safsel said many cases go unreported.
Places such as Hope's Door and My Sister's Place provide counseling, outreach programs and emergency support to victims of domestic violence. They also help teenagers recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, something that's especially important because a growing number of women are affected, Safsel said.
Levin said it's an issue across the board.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”