Law enforcement officials are teaming up to fight a growing epidemic in our community, domestic violence. Experts say many of the incidents are over economic hardships which have increased since the recession.
The Bay County Sheriff's Office is taking a firm stance on the issue, saying enough is enough. Men and women are targets of domestic violence and many are going unreported.
"It's not about putting someone in jail, it's about helping victims." Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen is putting domestic violence in the forefront, asking people to take a stance against it.
"It's not a stranger danger. It's someone that you love, someone that you know, someone that lives in your house. But it is a crime." McKeithen says. Victims of domestic violence tend to let the abuse go unreported because they're being manipulated.
"There are a lot of barriers that prevent them from getting help and one of the big things is financial reasons." Lt. Koren Colbert says.
"It's tough, it is a very tough and hard decision to make to take that step and leave, but you can do it." McKeithen added.
The Sheriff's Office actively works about 100 domestic violence cases a month, but say it is up to the victim to ensure they are resolved properly.
"It's so often that we make arrest and within 24 hours the victim is trying to drop charges." McKeithen says.
The State Attorney's office says it's working on a diversion program to address that issue. "Unfortunately that doesn't lead to a good result. If you don't address it, it's going to repeat and that doesn't do anybody any good." State Attorney Glenn Hess says.
October is domestic violence awareness month and so far the sheriff's office says they've booked a speaker that will meet with deputies to train them for such cases. If you or a family member is being abused, you are urged to report it to the Bay County Sheriff's Office at (850) 747-4700 or for counseling contact the Salvation Army at (850) 763-0706.