NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — On Thursday, the Newport News Police Department shined a light — a purple light — on a crime that has surged during COVID-19. Purple is the color representing Domestic Violence Awareness, and that color will illuminate the police headquarters every night this month.
As COVID-19 has forced families into seclusion with high unemployment and a lack of affordable housing, shelters have seen a large increase in survivors fleeing abusive relationships.
“Just last month, from September 1st, we had 52 individuals in emergency housing,” Sanu Dieng, director of Transitions Shelter, told WAVY. “We’re seeing increased cases of strangulation, increased cases where weapons are used. And also emotional abuse is always one that we see.”
Transitions took them all in, but they cannot safely house everyone in one place during the pandemic. They had to put many families in hotels. The shelter’s bill last month alone was $20,000. Dieng said that’s about how much they’d typically spend on hotels in a year.
“I would say it’s been extremely stressful,” she said.
Police are feeling the stress, too.
“June, July, August and September, our number one call for service was domestic violence,” Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew told WAVY.com.
Both Drew and Dieng say enough is enough. The shelter and police department have stacked this month’s calendar with domestic violence awareness events and donation drives.
“I’ve been excited, I’ve been excited and we even have some special surprises tonight,” Drew said.
During Thursday’s event, speakers shared personal stories and called the community to action. Speakers included NNPD Domestic Violence Specialist Cheryl Chavers, NNPD Domestic Violence Outreach Liaison, Neisha Himes, Drew, Special Victim’s Unit Supervisor Sgt. Ross, Officer Cespedes, representatives from Transitions Family Violence Services, and domestic violence survivor Ms. Onicka Daniel.
The police also showed off three cruisers that had been redone with domestic violence awareness logos and purple accents. Each precinct in the city will have one.
“We’re trying to be proactive and start that conversation [about] having awareness,” Drew said,
That means saying something when you see something and seeking help when you need it, Dieng said.
“I really truly believe that we can end domestic violence in the 757 if we all play a part,” she said.
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