Law enforcement agencies working in Cumberland County are getting some hand-held help in combating an increase in domestic violence cases.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office has issued 25 digital cameras to Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland police and State Police who patrol the county's rural municipalities.
The cameras are primarily designed to help authorities gather evidence related to domestic violence cases, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said.
"In many domestic violence cases, the allegations are not witnessed by anyone other than the victim and the accused," Webb-McRae said. "It is … very important to be able to corroborate the victim's description of the event through direct evidence like photographs.
Photos of recent bruises or destruction of property can greatly increase the ability of the Prosecutor's Office to prosecute a case, Webb-McRae said, adding they can also be useful in helping a domestic violence victim get a restraining order.
The most recent statistics from the State Police show the number of domestic violence cases in Cumberland County increased by seven percent, from 3,596 in 2009 to 3,831 in 2010. The number of domestic violence cases statewide increased by one percent.
The statistics show most of the county's domestic violence cases in 2010 involved 1,702 incidents of assault. The second largest number of domestic violence cases in the county for that year involved 1,662 incidents of harassment.
Webb-McRae said some of the more difficult domestic cases handled by law enforcement in Cumberland County involve the county's sizeable Hispanic population.
Statistics from the 2010 U.S. Census show that almost 28 percent of the county's population is Hispanic. The state average is slightly more than 18 percent.
During a symposium on domestic violence held by the Webb-McRae's office in October, speakers said that many Hispanics will not work with law enforcement for fear of deportment. Hispanics may also shun reporting incidents so as not to tarnish the family honor and worry that cooperating with domestic violence-linked agencies will bring them more abuse, the speakers said.
Webb-McRae said her office does outreach involving the county's farm workers, many of whom are Hispanic, in rural areas. That outreach involves distributing domestic violence information, she said.
Webb-McRae said that her office does not consider immigration status when handling domestic violence cases.
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