NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Newport News Police Department is continuing its fight against domestic violence.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The department has several events planned throughout the month to heighten the awareness of domestic violence. The first kicks off Thursday night at police headquarters.
Speakers included Police Chief Steve Drew, NNPD Domestic Violence Specialist Cheryl Chavers and NNPD Domestic Violence Outreach Liaison Neisha Himes. The Department had a few special surprises planned. Partnering agencies and domestic violence survivors also attended.
The Newport News Police Department’s Domestic Violence Team placed signs and donation boxes around the city.
“Domestic violence matters to me,” Chief Drew said. “Those who suffer that, the effect it has on people, it matters to me. When things are in front of you and visual, it makes you stop and think. I think it also shows the residents that domestic violence matters to us.”
Chief Drew said it's a real issue in the community and a big focus of his. The department brought in outside experts and now has a domestic violence team that works with the Special Victim’s Unit.
“My hope is to see a decrease, but I think the pandemic hurt us,” Chief Drew said.
Chief Drew said the number of domestic violence calls has gone up during the pandemic. It was the number one call for service from June to September. Officers are responding to 20-25 domestic related calls (situations) a day.
In 2018, there were two domestic-related deaths in Newport News, four in 2019, and one so far this year.
There were more than 900 domestic assaults in 2018, just over 1,000 in 2019 and 830 this year.
The Chief said the events the department has planned his month will hopefully break down barriers and help rein in those numbers.
“Sometimes when people have that venue, they'll open up a little bit, and maybe someone who is afraid to speak out will hear someone else share their story and be empowered,” Chief Drew said. “I think you will see a different October 2020 than Octobers you've seen in the past.”
The Domestic Violence Team will hold an open mic showcase on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. It will be a night of live poetry, awareness and empowerment.
Chief Drew will host this week’s Walk & Talk at Cottage Grove Apartments. Since this will be the first Walk & Talk event in October and October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Chief Drew will be joined by the Domestic Violence Team.