Domestic violence on rise in Eagle County |

Domestic violence on rise in Eagle County

Dustin Racioppi
Eagle County, CO Colorado
NWS Domestic Violence DT 1-15-09

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The last three months at the Bright Future Foundation in Avon have been some of its busiest, said Sheri Mintz, executive director for the domestic violence intervention and prevention group.

“In general, we’re seeing in the last three months about a 20 percent increase in referrals,” Mintz said.

What Mintz and her staff are seeing is a direct reflection of the increase in domestic violence cases in the county the last few years. The Eagle County District Attorney’s Office has averaged just fewer than 250 prosecuted cases in each of the last four years, but the number of incidents is much higher.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office’s Victim Services Unit’s case load has increased by 68 percent since 2005, according to Deena Ezzell, the county’s victim services coordinator. In 2008, more than 425 victims were served by the unit, she said.

Eagle County also has higher violent crime rates than the rest of the state, Ezzell added.

“This is particularly troubling because these offenses typically require an emergency response and more assistance from the Victim Services Unit,” Ezzell said in an e-mail.

Sheriff Joe Hoy said there are a number of reasons the numbers keep climbing, including an increase in population. But, he said, the latest economic woes have certainly become factors in recent months.

To Mintz, the relationship between economy and violent behavior is no surprise.

“Whenever there’s an economic downturn, one of the largest indicators of domestic violence is family stress,” she said, “and family stress is high right now.”

But the financial burden stretches beyond families and relationships. The sheriff’s office and nonprofit groups like Bright Future are feeling the pinch of tighter budgets and less giving, which makes their services a hot commodity.

“We try to allocate resources the best we can. It’s really been taxing for our staff. The staff is putting in a great deal of time,” Mintz said. “It’s a difficult balance for us, for sure.”

Yet it’s a balance Bright Future has been able to maintain to this point. The group staffs a clinical psychologist and attorney, has a safe house for abused women and children, runs a 24-7 hotline and provides transitional housing for abuse victims. There’s no telling, though, how long the group can keep it up if the current trend continues.

“It’s not like we’re entirely dependent on donations, but when our donations are down, it affects our ability,” Mintz said.

And it affects Hoy’s deputies, who are spending more time concentrating on abuse calls and cases, all while other crime isn’t going down. And the calls themselves are one of the more dangerous ones for deputies, he added.

“Any time you get an increase in calls, it’ll cause a strain,” Hoy said. “Domestic violence cases are always tough. You’re dealing with a component of human nature, and you don’t know how people are going to react.”

Colorado’s Domestic Abuse Assistance Program administrator, Ruth Glenn, said even though the state statistics for 2008 aren’t ready yet, she doesn’t doubt the number of cases statewide is up. As long as people are stressed, are having trouble paying bills or getting a job, the violence will continue, she said.

She also cautioned that the economy isn’t the sole reason for more cases.

“There’s probably already domestic violence, but as far as an increase in frequency, you’re going to see that,” Glenn said.

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or

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