Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced a program Friday aimed at providing resources to victims of domestic abuse, as reports of those types of crimes have declined since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Behind Closed Doors initiative is a partnership with grocery stores, Los Angeles Unified School District and other organizations to post fliers at their locations with contact information for assistance that abuse victims can use.
The initiative also calls on workers of essential services to be aware of signs of abusive relationships and circumstances and to contact authorities if they suspect someone is in danger.
This campaign is about galvanizing all of us,'' Feuer said. "We know throughout our community, people are looking for ways to contribute to the public good, but being involved in this Behind Closed Doors campaign … is a way to contribute.''
Feuer said he was very alarmed' at the decline in reports of domestic and other forms of abuse during the pandemic because people may continue to be abused, but they're not coming forward due to the Safer at Home Orders.
Since the Safer at Home orders were enacted in March, Feuer said the Los Angeles Police Department found there has been a 47% drop in reported physical child abuse and a 67% drop in reported child sexual abuse compared to this time last year.
Feuer said that because visitors can't go to senior living facilities at this time, which, he said, are often sources of reporting potential abuse or neglect, there has been a 50% reduction in reports of elder abuse.
The city attorney said people should demand caretakers at senior living facilities allow their relatives or loved ones to use visual communications if they aren't allowing someone access to the technology.
Reports of domestic violence have dropped 13% and there has been a 71% drop in reports of animal abuse, the Feuer said.
Lacey said there are free services available throughout the county, and people are not required to be a U.S. citizen to access them.
As we go through this pandemic together, we must be prepared to play that role for neighbors, friends and family members in need,'' Lacey said. "I'm asking every person who lives and works in Los Angeles County to be on the lookout for people who may need your help.
"You don't have to be a victim to call these hotlines and report a crime. Others are depending upon you to take notice and do something,'' she said.
Lacey said people should take note of others who have bruises, black eyes other injurious marks that are often signs of abuse. She mentioned the high-profile case of Gabriel Fernandez, whom she said tried to reach out to people without success before he was abused to death at age 8.
Lacey encouraged people contemplating calling law enforcement that it is better to be safe than sorry.'
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been conducting increased welfare checks on people who have previously reported abuse, Lacey said, and her office has 200 representatives checking in with victims to make sure they obtain protective orders.
Feuer said the courts have extended the duration of emergency protective orders from about a week to 30 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Criminal courts are still operating in a socially distanced capacity.
Feuer also said there has been near-record purchases of firearms nationwide since the coronavirus hit the U.S. He said people are still required in Los Angeles to safely lock up their guns and store them at home in places where a child or despondent relative cannot access them.