Last Tuesday Oakland Police Officer Randy White presented a report on the state of domestic violence to the City Council Public Safety Committee at the request of Councilmember Dan Kalb. According to White, the OPD’s Domestic Violence Unit has already received twice as many cases this year as they did in 2012—and yet their resources are increasingly strapped.

White, the head of the DVU, said that the 8,000 cases his unit has received this year represent an increase in reported domestic violence rather than an increase in cases of domestic violence.

“People are starting to realize more and more that they don’t have to stay in these violent relationships,” he said.

Though White interpreted the increase in reports as a positive sign, he said that the DVU is struggling to make capacity for the number of cases they receive. The DVU currently has five full time investigators and one part time investigator to respond to 500-600 calls per month.

According to White, the DVU currently only has the resources to respond to in-custody and priority violent felony cases, leaving many others on hold. The DVU’s currently has a backlog of 4,225 open cases, which amounts to approximately 648 cases per investigator, White said.

This conundrum is familiar to the DVU. In 2008, the last time the Public Safety Committee requested a report on domestic violence, the DVU struggled to address cases with a staff of four investigators, which led to the OPD increasing the DVU’s staff. April 2009 marked the beginning of a brief period when the department had 10 investigators, according to White, which allowed investigators manageable caseloads.

Despite the recurrent problem of inadequate staffing, White credited the DVU’s partnerships with Oakland domestic violence support organizations with providing community outreach and education. Representatives for the Family Violence Law Center, A Safe Place, and the Alameda Family Justice Center also spoke to the Public Safety Committee.

Rebecca Bauen of the Family Law Violence Center, which represents victims of domestic violence, requested that domestic violence be viewed as a community safety issue.

“Domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women,” she said. “It’s throughout our lives. I think it’s important that when we talk about public safety we talk about women’s safety.”

Bauen also voiced similar concerns as White, saying that the amount of staff members at the Center could not keep up with the volume of calls they receive. The current situation is unsustainable, she said, because the majority of funding for the Family Law Violence Center comes from Oakland’s Measure Y, which expires in 2014.

A Safe Place, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, has also been receiving more victims, according to Executive Director Carolyn Russell. Last year, a Safe Place received 2,000 calls from victim family members and friends, social workers, law enforcement, victims themselves.

According to Russell, men are now reaching out to a Safe Place for their mental health services. The organization has also seen an increase in the LGBT community who have no shelter, she said.

“We have to make sure we have the resources to support this increase,” she said.

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