Erie County DA sees lower overall crime but more domestic violence during pandemic

Apr 14, 2020

The Erie County District Attorney says since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders which have come with it, overall crime is down with the exception of domestic violence.

According to DA John Flynn, a typical weekend in Buffalo before Coronavirus would average about 100 bookings. Last weekend, he says, there were only 19. However, 11 of those 19 bookings were for domestic violence. There's a slight uptick in domestic violence cases since most people were ordered to stay at home, about two more per week on average.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
Credit WBFO file photo/Chris Caya

He says adding to the stress of being cooped up at home for many is the financial anxieties created by a layoff, something which has touched many Western New Yorkers.

"Studies have shown that for years and years, money problems lead to people having arguments," Flynn said. "You've got an economy that's shut down. You got people who are unemployed now, furloughed, laid off, whatever it may be, and they're forced to stay at home. You put those factors together and it is a recipe for disaster, in terms of domestic violence."

Niagara County reported a similar crime trend last week during a televised update on its COVID-19 cases. Chautauqua County is also reporting an increase in domestic violence, and its DA says changes in state law are complicating the matter. But there's also a noticeable change in the increased number of victims who are willingly coming forward to initiate the justice process.

What concerns Flynn, meanwhile, is whether victims understand that agencies supporting them remain open to serve during New York's PAUSE period. Though he has sent most of his staff home to work through the pandemic, his office is among those still open.

"Law enforcement is out there every day. You know, Haven House is available. Crisis Services is available. The Family Justice Center is available," Flynn said. "All of the nonprofit agencies that are out there, who have historically been out there helping domestic violence, they're all still open. They're all available."

DA Flynn noted that the available services include his office's own 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline, 716-862-HELP (4357).