St. George police taking extra precautions with domestic violence calls during COVID-19

Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – St. George police say domestic violence situations are among the most volatile and dangerous for their officers. In the added stress, pressure, and economic hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic, officers say they’re taking extra precautions when responding to these calls to ensure they don’t escalate while also keeping themselves safe and healthy.

Seven people have been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence since Friday afternoon in Washington County. Some of them face charges including aggravated assault and violence in the presence of children, and two of these individuals are also facing charges of child abuse.

St. George police officer, Tiffany Atkin, tells ABC4 News the number of domestic violence arrests for the month of March has not increased compared to 2018 and 2019, but officers added that some abusers who would normally be arrested are now simply being cited and released due to COVID-19.

Authorities said only being cited would include only those who are not believed to be an immediate threat to the lives of survivors — for instance, someone who would normally be arrested for an electronic harassment may now simply be cited.

“For instance, they’re not living together and for all intents and purposes moved on, and the immediate threat isn’t there that it could really become an issue, that’s gonna be one that there going to be cited and released,” Atkin said. “Does that mean that it’s okay to commit a domestic violence act because you think that you might not go to jail? Absolutely not.”

Atkin said officers will always arrest individuals committing acts of domestic assault, criminal mischief, and trespassing — and added that the data for domestic violence arrests in April and May may show a significant uptick in these kinds of calls.

While police said they are assessing the number of officers they send out to a call, authorities said they will send at least two officers to every domestic violence call and as many as they will need to protect survivors and their families.

Local advocates are practicing social distancing, but the Dove Center in Washington County is available for survivors, providing confidential legal and health counseling via video chat and a 24–hour helpline at 435-628-0458.

Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence is available 24/7: 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or udvc.org. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, please call 911 immediately

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