Domestic violence prevention a priority for new Henrico chief

By Andy Jenks - bio | email | facebook

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – In the wake of three high-profile acts of domestic violence, Henrico's incoming police chief promises a strong commitment to prevention.

The county dedicates an entire unit to domestic violence crimes, but lately that unit has been stretched to the max. It's something the new chief will be focusing on when he assumes command.

Henrico Police respond often to domestic violence cases, but for three consecutive weeks the calls were particularly violent.

February 23: A loud fight at a Lakeside-area apartment. Police say a man shot his wife in the head while the kids were home.

February 28: In the West End, a family runs from a hostage situation after police say one man killed another. Neighbors say an angry lover was involved.

March 9: On W. Broad, a pregnant woman is killed, and the presumed father of her unborn baby. A man married to another woman is accused of the murder.

These high-profile domestic crimes have the attention of the top cop.

"I think domestic violence is one of the places where we are going to put a lot more emphasis in the future," said Lt. Col. Doug Middleton.

To  Middleton, who will take over as chief on April 9, more emphasis means more prevention.

"That means we get out in the community, we make people comfortable when things have taken place, so that before the violent act ever takes place we can intervene," he said.

Those three aforementioned cases don't represent a spike in the overall number of domestic violence cases, but the incoming chief says the county isn't seeing a decrease either.

"So the fact that they're staying level indicates to me that we're doing something to at least address those problems," Middleton said.

But the new chief would like to see something more to make the numbers go down. He believes strong laws, like the mandatory arrests for suspected domestic violence perpetrators, will help make that happen.

"It's a team effort, it's a whole concept, and it's a larger approach than just the police department getting into it," Middleton said.

Arrests were made in all three of the cases mentioned earlier, and two of the suspects now face murder charges in Henrico County.

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