Shelters, police say domestic violence up in Kansas City since stay-at-home order took effect

Posted at 5:03 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 20:14:39-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Synergy Services has three shelters and they're all running beyond capacity.

"We're seeing for sure a 25 percent increase in our domestic violence calls, and then we’re seeing an increase in calls for help across-the-board," said Jennifer Hurst, development director at Synergy Services.

A negative side effect of the stay-at-home order many are concerned about is domestic violence victims being left with fewer options.

"They are trying everything they can to keep themselves and their children safe and unfortunately they’re stuck there with their abusers," Hurst said.

Already violent situations are compounded by the stay-at-home order, loss of jobs and income, so stress levels are through the roof.

Hurst said not only are more calls coming in, but the level of threat is higher.

Staff conduct lethality assessments when people call in. Lethality is this likelihood that a victim will be killed in a violent situation.

People are more often reporting a much higher level of lethality.

Synergy Services is now putting families up in hotels and working with other organizations to provide shelter.

"Our needs are higher, our expenses are consistently increasing in order to provide safety for those victims that need it most," Hurst said.

Other advocacy groups around the metro are seeing the same increase in need.

According to statistics from the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, domestic violence incidents without a weapon have risen from 277 to 323 from January through March. No other type of crime has increased like this.

"[It's] that inner conflict, you know. We're taking measures to keep the community as a whole safe but it's making some individuals feel or literally be less safe," said KCPD Sgt. Jake Becchina. "Those are situations where we want to take particular note."

Overland Park police said they're also seeing more disturbances happen inside the home.

"We still want people to call us, we will still respond," said OPPD Ofc. John Lacy. "We know people still need help out there and we're going to be there for them."

Organizations such as Synergy Services need the community's support to help as many families as they can.

They are looking for monetary donations and also items such as groceries, clothing, cleaning supplies, and entertainment for children.

"This is a matter of life and death, frankly," Hurst said.

Advocates encourage anyone in a domestic violence situation to come up with a safety plan. They can help victims come up with a plan tailored to their situation.

Anyone who feels they are in a dangerous situation or may be a victim of domestic violence can call the hotline at 816-321-7050 or 800-491-1114.