Some police departments see rise in domestic incidents

Martin Willey

DOVER — Increased time together at home may ignite more disputes as well.

Regular routines are disrupted these days and many people face economic hardship stress too.

Domestic incidents have risen slightly in some First State towns and remained steady in others, police said this week.

In an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. John Carney March 24 added a stay-at-home order to his state-of-emergency declaration.

Until society begins re-opening, Wyoming Police Chief Martin Willey said he expects increased complaints due to restrictions.

“We are starting to see a few more domestics,” he said. “I expected that. With the restrictions, it put a lot more strain on people who stay in the same house.

“I look for domestics to continue to increase the longer the restrictions are in place. That’s expected when people are cooped up and can’t get out.”

Very few incidents have been physical, Chief Willey said.

“It’s been more people just arguing — disagreement between two parties,” he said. “This also includes children when they won’t listen to their parents and we get a call for that.”

In northern Kent County, Smyrna Cpl. Brian Donner echoed those observances.

“The one call type that remains steady and perhaps even slightly elevated is domestic disputes,” he said. “I think this can be naturally attributed to family members being stuck inside with each other for long periods of time.

“It should be noted that serious/violent domestic incidents are not trending upward as the majority of our calls have been non-criminal in nature.”

Since April 6, Smyrna Police have investigated six domestic disputes which are categorized as verbal/non-criminal.

“We have also investigated two domestic related crimes that are non violent (harassment by person or electronic means) and those two incidents remain under investigation and arrests/warrants have not yet been made and may not be if probable cause is not determined,” Cpl. Donner said.

In Dover, police “have seen an increase in the frequency (of domestics) and the overwhelming majority of them are verbal in nature,” spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Dover case statistics were not immediately available due to limited staffing.

In a recent six-day span, domestic-related incidents have begun to trend up, Georgetown Det. Joey Melvin said. Overall, they had decreased from the same March 1 to April 13 time period in 2019, he said.

Officers in Seaford report that incidents are increasing, Cpl. Eric Chambers said.

In Cheswold, “Surprisingly, our domestic calls have slowed,” Chief Chris Workman said. “We have not had many up to this point.”

Police have responded to four domestic incidents in Cheswold since March 11-12, which was “related to one residence on the outset of the closures, regarding a residential issue where no arrests were made or necessary,” Chief Workman said.

Harrington Chief Norman Barlow reported domestic cases “Seem to be the same, there hasn’t been a significant increase.”

According to Selbyville Chief W. Scott Collins, “Unfortunately, our numbers for domestic related events is remaining near normal.”

There’s been no increase in incidents in Lewes, said Chief Thomas Spell.

Rehoboth Beach Lt. Jaime Riddle said there were no domestic related incidents reported in March and no domestic related arrests so far this month.

According to Felton Cpl. Christopher Guild, “We haven’t seen a drastic increase or decrease in domestic incidents with more folks staying at home at this point.”

In March this year, Delaware State Police said there were 892 criminal and non-criminal domestic calls statewide, compared to 1,019 during the same time period in 2019.

There were 335 children present in cases this year in March, 391 compared to the same period in 2019. February totals dropped this year compared to last year as well.