BEDFORD, N.Y. – The Bedford Police Department's increase in 2010 and 2012 in domestic incident reports (DIRs), when compared to 2008, may not necessarily mean that domestic violence is on the rise in town, according to officials.
In 2012, 130 domestic incidents were reported to Bedford police, and there were nine related arrests. The number of reports is up from 118 reported in 2010, which was accompanied by 11 arrests.
The 2010 figure is 64 percent higher than that of 2008, during which 72 incident reports were filed, with eight arrests made, according to a biannual report from the Westchester County Office for Women.
Bedford Police Lt. Jeff Dickan said an increase in DIRs since 2008 may be due to the new domestic violence reporting procedures that expand the definition of "domestic incident," implemented in May 2008 by the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Originally, the law only required a report if the altercation was spouse-on-spouse, but now, Dickan said, police classify calls of all kinds as domestic incidents: boyfriends and girlfriends, girlfriends and girlfriends, siblings, parents and children.
As part of the Bedford department's domestic violence training, Dickan said, officers are made aware of previous incidents at a location or any conditions that might require an automatic arrest, such as a violation of an order of protection or visible injuries on the victim, Dickan said.
Officers are also kept informed of changes in the law and periodically receive updated training, Dickan said. "It's like I always tell the guys here: 'If you're not sure, file a domestic incident,'" he said, which can be the safest bet for accurate reporting.
With a population of 18,133, the number of domestic incidents reports (DIRs) in 2010 means Bedford had one report per 139 residents that year, ranking it 23rd out of 52 Westchester County towns. Mount Vernon finished at the top of the list with 1 report for every 26 residents. Neighboring Pound Ridge had 1 in 70 and ranked eighth in the county, and Lewisboro (1 in 474) ranked 39th.
Westchester has seen several high-profile domestic violence deaths in the news in recent years. Theresa Gorski, a Sleepy Hollow mother of two, was choked to death in January. Gorski's husband, Christopher Howson, is facing murder charges.
Nancy Levin, chief development officer at My Sister's Place, a domestic violence shelter in northern Westchester, said this problem remains an issue across the socioeconomic spectrum.
“Whether you are living in a housing project or an affluent community, domestic violence reaches across gender, race and socioeconomic status,” Levin said. “We are trying to change the way society thinks about intimate partner abuse and the culture that allows for it.”