CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga (WSAV) – The Chatham County Police Department and Savannah Police Department band together to address domestic violence and educate the community about helpful resources.

According to both agencies, they are seeing an increase in domestic disturbance and domestic violence cases as residents shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials say between April 5 and April 16, Chatham County Police Department officers responded to an average of 4.2 domestic disturbance calls a day. This is up from the daily average of 3.6 for the same time period in 2019. Approximately 70% of those incidents were first-time domestic disturbance calls to those residences.

The Savannah Police Department is reporting an uptick in domestic violence calls amid the coronavirus outbreak. March numbers show calls have jumped nearly 10 percent since last year.

During the same time period, Savannah Police Department officers responded to an average of 12 domestic violence-related calls a day, which is up from the daily average of nine calls for the same time frame in 2019.

“Sheltering in place is one of our most crucial weapons against spreading the deadly COVID-19 virus,” said Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley. “But, it is incredibly stressful for many families who are now dealing with a disrupted daily routine, job loss, economic uncertainty and the anxiety brought on by this global pandemic. Sadly, in some households, the tensions are escalating to the point where the police must become involved for everyone’s safety.”

“Calls for domestic violence are on the incline nationwide and in our community, and we knew it was time to shed some light on this unfortunate circumstance,” said Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter. “We want to encourage those in our community to please call police if they are in an unhealthy or abusive situation. We are here to help. From our patrol officers to our Family Violence Unit detectives, you will receive a thorough investigation and get the assistance you need.”

Both Chief Hadley and Chief Minter say if a situation turns threatening or violent, call 9-1-1 right away. Those who are not in immediate danger, but want help leaving an abusive spouse or partner, can call Safe Shelter’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 912-629-8888.


Previous article (April 15, 2020)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- The Savannah Police Department is reporting an uptick in domestic violence calls amid the coronavirus outbreak. March numbers show calls have jumped nearly 10 percent since last year.

Sergeant Michael Kerr with SPD’s Family Violence unit said call counts have been gradually rising since the shelter at home orders took effect.

“A lot of these abusers, normally they are not home they are either at work or somewhere else,” said Sgt. Kerr. “You have them at home, kids are at home, and tensions are high people probably got laid off so that’s contributing to the violence.”

Cheryl Branch who runs SAFE Shelter, a safe haven for victims of domestic violence, said the uptick is concerning.

In March of last year SPD responded to 273 calls, flash forward one year and that number is 296.

In April of 2019, 333 calls came in. Sgt. Cerr said in just the first two weeks of this month officers have responded to 159.

Cerr tells WSAV News 3 that city and county police departments around the country and even around the world are seeing similar spikes.

“The worst thing that most of us can experience when you shelter at home is you get bored,” said Cheryl Branch, Director of SAFE Shelter. “For this person that cuts off all their outlets that they may have had to reach out for help or at least they feel like that.”

Monica Burgstiner remembers that feeling of being trapped, but she says there’s always a way out.

“I was that girl sitting in the closet with my abuser over me telling me to be quiet while the police are knocking on my door,” said Burgstiner. “I understand how terrifying it can be, but you do have options, you have people there, SAFE shelter will keep you safe.”

Kerr want victims to know they will respond no matter what and abusers could be arrested and booked at the Chatham County Detention Center.

“We don’t want a victim of domestic violence to think just because of a stay at home order they have to stay in the house with their abusers,” said Kerr. “Call the police we will show up and we will handle it appropriately, but you have to call the police.”

SAFE shelter also said Superior Court judges are using platforms like zoom to hear and process temporary restraining orders. If you or someone you knows needs help you can call their 24 hour hotline at 912-629-8888.