By LEAH DEARBORN
PEABODY — Police are taking a closer look at domestic violence cases after the release of some sobering crime statistics last week.
The 2015 annual department report, belatedly presented by Police Chief Thomas M. Griffin at a Municipal Safety Committee meeting, showed an increase in homicide and aggravated assaults.
The homicide rate in the city went up from one case in 2014 to three, said the report. Rape went up 67 percent, from three to five cases, and aggravated assaults saw a 14 percent spike.
Griffin said two of the homicides were related to domestic violence, while the third was a fatal stabbing that occurred in the kitchen of the P.F. Chang’s restaurant on Andover Street.
“These are very concerning numbers,” said Councilor Anne Manning-Martin, who asked Griffin to outline his plan up through the present day for combating violent crime.
Griffin said the department has reinstituted the Rape Aggression Defense Program (RAD), which is aimed primarily at teaching confidence and self-defense to women.
Each installment of the program, which will start again soon, runs for four nights, said Griffin. Participants discuss how to make safe choices and take part in a hands-on component where they practice punching officers dressed in safety suits.
“I don’t believe any of these sexual assaults were stranger situations,” said Griffin. “It’s more about finding out what’s going on in the family.”
A high-risk domestic violence team meets monthly to discuss any recent incidents, said Griffin, who has reached out to church groups in the area for their help in pinpointing abuse.
He said it can be difficult to keep victims involved with domestic violence cases as they progress through court.
“Hopefully we’re reaching people that may not have wanted to talk to us in the past,” said Griffin. “The message we want to send out is that we want to help anyone who asks. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you have a job or not.”
The chief recommended Salem-based Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC) as an effective resource for residents seeking refuge from domestic violence.
The annual report wasn’t all bad news; it outlined favorable statistics that included a 15 percent overall decrease in violent crimes and a 38 percent reduction in property crimes.
The 2016 report has yet to be released, but Griffin said he expects it to be ready by the end of April at the latest.
Leah Dearborn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.