As our country's economy continues to sputter and unemployment remains high, there are a lot of truly shitty consequences. One of them is that police are finding that they're dealing with more and more cases of domestic violence. A survey of law enforcement agencies across the country polled 700 agencies, and 56 percent of them said that in 2011 the bad economy had caused an increase in "domestic conflict." A similar survey found that number was just 40 percent in 2010.
In Camden, New Jersey, where there is now a 19 percent unemployment rate, there were 9,100 domestic incidents that police responded to last year. In 2010, there were just 7,500 calls. Scott Thompson, Camden Police Chief, says, "When stresses in the home increase because of unemployment and other hardships, domestic violence increases. We see it on the street." What's even more depressing is that his department started tracking domestic violence calls closely because they require a lot of the time and personnel, and the increased volume they're receiving is straining the police force because they've had to layoff about 200 people in the past two years as a result of the bad economy.
This newest survey matches up with previous findings in 2009 from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Katie Ray-Jones, the hotline's president, said that stress caused by the bad economy was "intensifying and escalating" reported abuse. And Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think-tank, says of the increase in domestic violence calls, "You are dealing with households in which people have lost jobs or are in fear of losing their jobs. That is an added stress that can push people to the breaking point." Of course, the longer this soft economy drags on, the more prolonged stress people are under and the more likely they are to finally break. Yet another reason to remember that righting the economy and creating jobs isn't just some grand political problem to bicker about. (Ahem, Congress, are you listening?) Economic growth has real consequences for actual people's lives.
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