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Coronavirus drives rise in LI domestic violence cases, cops say

Suffolk County police officers at scene of a

Suffolk County police officers at scene of a standoff. Credit: James Carbone

Incidents of domestic violence are up nearly 3.5% in Suffolk since the start of the pandemic and more than 7% in Nassau since the beginning of the year, county officials said following a pair of barricade standoffs last weekend.

In a media briefing Monday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the intense shelter-in-place conditions created by the pandemic have likely driven the increase as underlying household tensions are magnified in homes throughout the country.

"Domestic violence is horrific, intolerable and something we do not accept," said Bellone, who added the county is taking steps to let victims know they can seek help. 

During a six-week period from March 1 through April 16, Suffolk police responded to 3,349 incidents of domestic violence, according to department data. During that same period in 2019, authorities responded to 3,237 such incidents — a 3.46% hike, the data shows.

Since the start of the year, Nassau police have responded to 4,049 domestic violence calls compared to 3,778 at this point in 2019, a 7.1% increase, officials said.

State Police said domestic violence calls were up 15% in March compared with last year. Calls to the state's domestic violence hotline jumped 30% in April compared with 2019, officials said last week as they announced a new statewide text program and confidential online service for victims of domestic abuse. Victims can text 844-997-2121 or go to opdv.ny.gov

Officers with the Suffolk County Police Department's Domestic Violence/Elder Abuse bureau are identifying victims at the highest risk of danger, assisting them with obtaining panic alarms and coordinating with prosecutors, officials said. When high-risk victims cannot be contacted, officers will attempt a home visit.

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County officials said existing orders of protection will be automatically extended while prosecutors and advocates help victims obtain new orders. 

"We anticipated the rise in domestics due to the financial and emotional stresses that are associated with coronavirus and proactively reach out to those at the highest risk of being victimized,” said Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, adding that victims can text 911 if it's not safe to call police.

Nassau police are also trying to make contact with victims, who are stuck in the house with their abusers.

“The NCPD continues to work with numerous outside agencies, both providing and receiving domestic training, to ensure that victims receive exceptional services to enhance education and recovery," said Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

Suffolk police responded to a pair of serious incidents last weekend that involved domestic disputes leading to barricade situations.

A Medford man was arrested Sunday night after allegedly attacking a female acquaintance with a knife at her home in Kings Park while she was with her two young children.

The incident began Saturday night when Mark Reyes, 33, entered the woman's home and held her against her will overnight, authorities said. At some point, the woman helped her 5-year-old child escape to a neighbor's house, and the neighbor called 911, Bellone said. The neighbor later distracted the assailant, giving the woman an opportunity to escape with the other child, officials said.

Reyes then broke down the back door of a nearby home occupied by a 77-year-old woman, police said. Officers rescued the woman as Reyes barricaded himself in an upstairs bathroom, police said. Emergency Services officers stormed the home after an eight-hour standoff and arrested Reyes, who suffered non-life-threatening self-inflicted knife wounds, police said.

Reyes is charged with two counts of second-degree unlawful imprisonment, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and other offenses.

In a separate incident Sunday night, a verbal dispute between a female landlord and tenant turned into a standoff lasting several hours in Rocky Point, police said.

The tenant, Damien Loechner, 39, barricaded himself with a rifle and broke windows, damaged the interior of the house and threatened police, authorities said. Loechner was apprehended and charged with menacing a police officer and second-degree criminal mischief.

Suffolk Crime Victim hotlines

Crime Victims 24 hour Hotline: 631-332-9234

Hate Crime Hotline: 631-626-3156

Sex Offender tip line: 631-316-3237

Victims Information Bureau, Suffolk: 631-360-3730 ext. 112

L.I. Against Domestic Violence Hotline: 631-666-8833

Brighter Tomorrows: 631-395-1800 ext. 110

Crime Victim Center: 631-689-2672

The Retreat: 631-329-4398

Source: Suffolk County

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