YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Law enforcement, lawmakers and local victims’ advocates came together Thursday to discuss the rising numbers of domestic violence cases in the area and legislation to address that.
Columbiana County Prosecutor Vito Abbruzzino said just this week the Ohio Domestic Violence Network released new figures with 112 fatalities over the last year, the most ever in the state. The number is split between women and men, but 22 of them were children.
“If they are able to get that frontline view, hear it from folks here in the Valley maybe they can go back to Columbus and try to better effectuate getting those bills across the finish line,” Abruzzino said.
Mahoning County Area Court Judge Molly Johnson said many cases involve people returning to court more than once.
“I would say that anywhere between 25% and 30% of my cases are repeat cases with the same defendant and the same victim, and that represents a lot of problems,” said Judge Molly Johnson
Beth Schmitt, director of Christina House, a domestic violence shelter in Columbiana County, said this year they’ve taken more than 300 from potential victims, but in the end, only 19 of them actually went to a shelter.
“If they do come to the shelter or if they do file charges and he has to go to court, when he gets out, he’s gonna kill them and we’ve seen it happen,” she said.
Lawmakers told the group a number of proposals are already being discussed, some to tighten up existing laws. Some discussed include changes in state law that can make more domestic violence case felonies, which could force offenders to give up any firearms they have and give judges discretion to set bonds for certain domestic violence cases where the law doesn’t call for that now. Also, speeding up the process of sending notifications from one county to another, or from state to state. Presently, they have to be sent via snail mail instead of electronically.
“Things that worked maybe five, ten years ago don’t work today. We need to go and change with the times,” said Rep. Al Cutrona, R-59th District.
Cutrona and the others say some of those measures could be voted on before the end of the year.