Thanksgiving Day filled with domestic violence calls

Thanksgiving Day kicked off with early morning violence for the Medford police.

The 7:30 a.m. call, said Medford police Sgt. Boone, was between an adult couple.

"That was a crime of passion," he said. "Infidelity had led to a domestic quarrel."

It was just the beginning of a turbulent Thanksgiving for some Jackson County residents. Local law enforcement agencies say they spent Thursday responding to an unusually high number of domestic violence calls, sometimes back-to-back. And it's certainly not unique to the Rogue Valley.

"Our day yesterday (Thursday) was plagued by domestic assault," said Medford police Sgt. Mark Boone. He said the 12 calls they responded to all involved adults, and tended to be spouses arguing after there had been a lot of alcohol consumption.

He said most of the calls Thursday were verbal, not physical, though there was one arrest for assault.

Historically the Thanksgiving Day domestic violence calls begin about 4 p.m., and it goes into the evening, he said. But Thursday calls started coming in at 7:30 a.m. and officers were responding to domestic violence calls one after another at some points.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters had similar findings, and had talked with Eagle Point officers who also said their number of calls were unusually high. He said sheriffs deputies responded to nine domestic violence calls in the county Thursday. Though he didn't have the figures for past Thanksgivings, the number seemed high to him.

The scenes had similar themes, he said.

"There was a lot of verbal abuse, a lot of alcohol," he said. "'Liquid courage' — it usually gets people in trouble." He said one of the calls was physical and the assailant was lodged in jail.

Winters said the most common topic of the arguments is finances, and Thursday's high call number could be tied in to current economic conditions.

"The economy's not good, and the price of gas — money's getting tight," he said.

Anna D'Amato, director of victim services at Community Works, said domestic violence disputes over money are common.

"It fits into what we see," she said, adding that domestic violence is about seeking power.

"It is a person making a choice to use power and control over another human being," she said. "Finances is a great way to control someone."

Domestic violence is not always physical, she said. "It can be emotional, financial, it can be about the kids."

Community Works has an advocate working with Medford police to assist victims in getting help they need, she said.

Boone said it's usually neighbors or an anonymous person who call police, though sometimes it's one of the two in the relationship. MPD always sends two officers to a domestic violence call because the situation can be so volatile, he said.

"It's probably one of the more dangerous things we do in law enforcement," he said. "You've got people at an elevated emotional level. People will tend to make very rash decisions."

There have been "domestics" in the past that have resulted in officers being shot, he said, though law enforcement has learned a lot about defusing such situations.

"We'll do a little on-the-spot counseling, and then make an effort to separate them," he said. Both police officers and sheriffs deputies will try to get one of the people to go somewhere else for a while and cool off. Otherwise the threatening behavior can easily start up again after the officer leaves.

Winters said sometimes it's familiar faces they respond to on domestic violence calls.

"We always have our frequent fliers, so to speak. There's always the new customers," said Winters. He said there's usually an increase in domestic violence calls and an increase in suicides this time of year.

"From now through the Christmas holidays or New Year's, we'll deal with that," he said.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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