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Steadily growing reports of domestic violence over the past year – including two fatalities – prompted Las Cruces Police Chief Richard Williams to hold a press conference Friday, Aug. 2, to increase awareness about the problem and offer help.
“This is about committing violence against someone they are supposed to love,” Williams said. “We’re saying this is unacceptable.”
From August 2012 through July 2013, the Las Cruces Police Department has made 626 domestic violence-related arrests.
There have been two deaths in domestic violence-related incidents, Williams said.
On June 12, 42-year-old Carlos Nevarez III was killed when he and his girlfriend got into an argument and she allegedly ran over him on North Main Street. On July 31, 59-year-old Lisa Cash was shot to death allegedly by her brother-in-law. Both of these homicides appear to have originated from issues related to domestic violence, police said.
Williams said LCPD’s Domestic Violence Unit is determined to help end this growing trend and, along with the department’s Victims’ Assistance Unit, stands ready to assist any victim of domestic violence within Las Cruces.
Members of those units urged people to be aware of the resources not only in the department, but in the community, such as La Piñon Sexual Assault Recovery Services of Southern New Mexico and La Casa Inc., the city’s domestic violence shelter.
Representatives from the nonprofit organizations said they’ve seen an increased need for their services. Theresa Armendariz, La Casa executive director, said the organization has provided shelter by a count of 22,000 beds. In the fiscal 2009-10 year, the bed count was a little more than 10,000, she said.
“That’s double the beds in just a few years,” Armendariz said.
La Casa offers safe housing, counseling and support services to victims of domestic violence and their children. Along with emergency shelter, La Casa also provides rental assistance, case management and support services to victims and their children who are transitioning into an independent living situation. Legal services are provided for issues such as protective orders, divorce and custody disputes.
La Casa also offers a program for men with histories ofpartner abuse. The program offers information and practical tools to change those behaviors of physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse. Specialized parenting education also is offered, along with educational outreach.
Donna Richmond, La Piñon’s executive director, said she didn’t believe that domestic violence had increased as much, as there are now more people willing to report it and seek help. In addition to providing around-the-clock counseling through hotlines, La Piñon also offers assistance in collecting forensic evidence, therapeutic counseling and community education.
Las Cruces is not unique in seeing a steady increase in domestic violence, Williams said. Domestic violence has been on the rise nationally, so it can’t be just attributed to the hot weather or local economy, he said. Nevertheless, Williams said he didn’t want his department or the community to become complacent about the problem.
“As a community, we’re saying that we don’t condone this kind of behavior,” Williams said.
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