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CCSO receives #036;19,800 grant

Domestic Violence continues to be an ongoing problem throughout the United States.

Crenshaw County is no exception.

Gov. Bob Riley awarded a $19,800 grant to Crenshaw County to help the Sheriff's Office continue to provide a fulltime domestic violence investigator.

"Domestic violence is a serious offense that can not be tolerated," Riley said in a statement released last week. "I am pleased to support the efforts of Crenshaw County officials to prosecute offenders and provide assistance to victims."

There were a total of 1,127 cases filed at the Crenshaw County Sheriff's Office between Jan. 1, 2003 and Dec. 31, 2003. Of those cases, 81 were domestic violence related.

As of Sept. 30 of this year, a total of 878 cases were filed with the Sheriff's Office, 65 of which were domestic violence related. During last year's grant period, Sept. 1, 2003 through Aug. 31, 2004, 1,182 cases were filed and of those 96 involved domestic violence.

With statistics like that, the news of the additional funding was a relief to the department.

"Shown by the stats, there is a problem with domestic violence in Crenshaw County," Chief Deputy Jimmy Lecroy, who applies for the department's grants, said. "We have 611 square miles to cover and we're a financially distraught county and without the grants we would not be able to have the people on force to combat domestic violence."

According to statistics released by Maury Mitchell, director of the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 18,602 violent offenses reported throughout the state of Alabama last year. Of those cases, 2,261 or 12 percent were acts of domestic violence. Twenty-five of those cases resulted in homicide, 201 were rapes, 108 were robberies and 1,927 were aggravated assault.

"Domestic violence is definitely a problem," Lecroy said.

There were also 28,486 domestic simple assaults reported last year throughout the state. Of those reported, females were the victims in 76 percent of the cases and males were victimized in 24 percent of the cases.

A firearm was used in 18 percent of the offenses reported throughout the state last year. Hands, fists and feet were used in 50 percent of the cases, knifes 15 percent of the time and other dangerous weapons were in17 percent of the cases.

Victims of domestic violence come in all forms. Wives made up the highest percentage of victims last year at 26 percent, while common law wives were victimized in three percent of the cases and ex-wives in five percent. Girlfriends made up the second highest percentage at 25 percent and ex-girlfriends made up 16 percent. Husbands were the victims in nine percent of the cases, common law husbands one percent, boyfriends nine percent and ex-boyfriends five percent.

Lecroy said without the funding made available from the state, the Sheriff's Office would have a hard time responding to all the domestic calls. A deputy is assigned to investigate all domestic violent crimes in the county and the money made available helps to pay his or her salary. Without the grant, county officials say they could not afford to assign a deputy to respond solely to domestic violence crimes.

"Cases would be backlogged, our hands would be tied and we couldn't do anything about it because we wouldn't have anybody to send on these calls," Lecroy said.

Thanks to the grant, the deputy will continue to receive specialized training in domestic violence issues to help reduce occurrences of the crime. One way of doing so is through the newly formed Crenshaw County Domestic Violence Task Force.

Lecroy said there are several types of domestic violence. Domestic violence, third degree includes simple assaults or harassment and domestic violence, second degree includes cases with major injuries. Lecroy said he's never worked a case where someone was arrested for domestic violence, first degree during his 32 years in law enforcement. He also said there is such a crime as domestic violence homicide as well.

Riley awarded the grant from funds made available to the state through a program of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has designated the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to administer the grant.

"We wouldn't be able to function without these grants and without the assistance of ADECA," Lecroy said.

ADECA Director John Harrison notified Ronnie Blackmon, commission chairman, that the grant had been approved. Local matching funds of $6,600 will supplement the grant.