UPDATE: Increase in domestic violence incidents in Chattanooga - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Increase in domestic violence incidents in Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: An annual report released by the TBI this week shows domestic violence across the state is declining.

But in Chattanooga, the number of cases are on the rise.
   
Local advocates and law enforcement agree -- that may actually be a good thing.
   
They say the spike in cases is due to more victims coming forward.

TBI statistics say during the past three years domestic violence-related cases across the state have decreased by 7.4 percent. In Chattanooga, the number of reported incidents increased 2.6 percent.
   
But both police and The Partnership say their focus isn't on the numbers, it's on creating new services to reach victims.   

About one third of violent crime in Chattanooga is related to domestic violence.
   
That's why starting July 1st Chattanooga Police will have a new Family Justice Center and a Special Victims Unit with specially-trained detectives.
   
Chief Fred Fletcher hopes to see the number of incidents increase in next year's report.

"We expect and we promote the increase in reporting, which is counter intuitive because it's going to make our crime numbers go up," Chief Fletcher said, "But we can't respond to crimes, we can't protect victims unless we know about it."

The Partnership says families can not receive help until a domestic incident is reported.
   
Mara White tells Channel 3 she was in an abusive relationship with her now ex-husband for nine years. The couple has two young daughters.

"There were many times where i thought about just packing up all my things and moving far away just to get away," White said, "And not telling anybody not even telling my family where I was going, I thought about that many times."

White turned to the Partnership for help, and learned about their supervised visitation center.
   
A new program for parents offers a meeting place for visits and children exchange, all at a secure and supervised location.

"There's no contact between the parent, so there's no escalation of any conversation that could get heated," says Regina McDevitt, Partnership Director.
   
White had issues with child visitation before coming to the Partnership.

"When they would visit with him he would ask them if I had any boyfriends, he would tell them that mom's a bad mom and she's not a real christian because she's getting divorced," White said.

Parents with a history of domestic abuse arrive at different times, enter through locked doors and medal detectors and a partnership employee stays with the child at all times.

"I have not had any contact with my ex-husband for over two years now, which has been absolutely amazing, I feel a sense of freedom I never had before," White said.

T here are nearly 2,000 domestic incidents reported to CPD each year.
   
In the past three years, eight of those cases involved murder.

All of the services at the Partnership's supervised visitation center are free to families with a history of domestic violence.

For more information, visit the website here.

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ORIGINAL STORY: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has released a report on domestic violence using data collected over a three year period showing a 7.4 percent decline in incidents. During the same time period, Chattanooga jumped 2.6 percent in incidents.

“The issue of domestic violence is, by no means, a novel problem in American society,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn in a released statement. “The persistence of domestic violence and the large number of related incidents reported to law enforcement necessitates continued awareness about this issue.”

Click here for the TBI report on domestic violence 2012-2014

Domestic violence incidents resulted in 270 murders in Tennessee between 2012 and 2014. Of those deaths, Chattanooga had a total of eight that were due to domestic violence during the same time period.

The statewide data showed that women were three times more likely to be victimized than men.

From 2012 to 2014, victims were six times more likely to be abused by a spouse than an ex-spouse in domestic-related offenses.

State data showed simple assault was, by far, the most frequently reported offense, accounting for 68.4 percent of all domestic violence offenses.

That was also true in Chattanooga, according to 2014 data. Out of 1,833 domestic violence related crimes reported to Chattanooga police, 66 percent were for simple assault. Of those reported offenses, 715 cases were cleared.

State data showed juveniles accounted for 58.9 percent of victims reporting a victim-to-offender relationship as child or step-child.

On July 1, the City of Chattanooga is scheduled to open the Family Justice Center. The new center will be located inside East gate Loop.

Previous Coverage: Council agrees to fund plans for Family Justice Center

Free services for victims of sexual assault as well as domestic and family violence will be offered through a network of legal and social services on site.
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