HOULTON, Maine — The number of domestic violence calls and arrests are up in some parts of Aroostook County over the past year, according to local police chiefs and the county sheriff.
Police in Houlton have seen domestic violence arrests nearly triple from 2014 to 2015, and calls to the Aroostook County Sheriff”s Office also have increased though not as dramatically.
At the Houlton Police Department, Chief Joe McKenna said Monday that in 2014, there were 11 domestic violence arrests. But the number of arrests nearly tripled to 31 in 2015.
“We’ve had more physical violence than verbal violence,” McKenna said. “And I would say we have had more complaints. Our officers are better trained to handle domestic violence, and there is an increased awareness of domestic violence in the community.”
Aroostook County Sheriff Darrell Crandall said that domestic violence calls had risen only slightly from 2014 to 2015, with 48 calls recorded by his department in 2014 compared to 57 in 2015.
“That is not a huge increase,” he said
Police chiefs in Presque Isle and Caribou, meanwhile, reported numbers were down slightly or about the same.
Regardless, when police respond to domestic violence calls, they can often be the most dangerous and volatile calls the officers respond to, according to Crandall, especially in rural areas where individual officers patrol large areas and often have to respond to the calls alone.
For Crandall, training his officers to respond and investigate domestic violence calls throughout The County is one of the most important parts of his job. To that end, the sheriff’s office employs Sheriff Detective Pete Johnson, a full time domestic violence investigator, the only one in Aroostook County.
The sheriff said that the office has been providing a lot of training to officers in the past year on the investigation of domestic violence related issues, and Johnson has reached out and provided training to officers in other police departments. In the past year, he said, men have remained the primary offenders of domestic violence.
“There were only a handful of cases where women were the offenders,” said Johnson.
Johnson also said that in most cases, drugs and alcohol were involved in the incidents.
“We have found that alcohol and drugs do not precipitate the problem, but they exacerbate it,” said Crandall.
In Presque Isle, Chief Matt Irwin said that his year to date totals show that domestic violence arrests are down slightly over 2015.
“Thus far, we have 36 domestic violence arrests for 2015,” he said Monday. “ During the same time frame in 2014 we had 40 domestic violence arrests.”
At the Caribou Police Department, Chief Michael Gahagan believed that the numbers stayed the same from 2014 to this time in 2015.
“We have a better reporting system now, which is helping us,” he said Monday. “People that are seeing something going on are calling us.”
He also said that males by far are the primary offenders in domestic violence cases.