FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – In Flagler County, on average, deputies are responding to roughly two domestic violence calls every day -- and that's just the Sheriff's Office, not city police departments, in unincorporated Flagler County.
Sheriff Rick Staly said already this year, the Sheriff's Office has handled 375 domestic violence incidents. If the current pace continues, 2017 will go down as the worst year on record for domestic violence in Flagler County.
After five domestic violence incidents in just one weekend in June, Staly said he had enough.
On June 28, he held a "Domestic Violence Summit," which brought together more than 40 members of the community to come up with solutions to get results.
"What the community has to understand is this isn't just a law enforcement problem, it's a community problem," Staly said. "The problem for us, for law enforcement to have an impact, you don't know what goes on behind closed doors, so until you get called, it could be simmering for a very long time."
Staly called together deputies, police officers, medical professionals, a DCF administrator, social workers, domestic violence survivors, pastors, teachers and law enforcement chaplains.
Staly said the members have been meeting regularly every few weeks.
In October, Staly said he's expecting a report on five areas of improvement: Criminal justice, faith-based, medial, social services and education.
"I suspect one of the recommendations that will come out is I will assign a detective to work nothing but domestic violence, so we have more trained investigator to do the follow ups and build those cases," Staly said.
Staly said of Flagler County's 375 domestic violence cases this year, fewer than half of the suspected abusers were arrested.
Staly also said he'll consider requiring convicted abusers to undergo a court-ordered battery intervention program, rather than just a broad anger management class.
Staly said any recommendations to the Sheriff's Office he can implement immediately.
Once the recommendations are delivered and implemented, Staly said he expects reports of domestic violence to rise before they fall. He said he hopes as soon as victims become aware of the new countywide effort to combat domestic violence, they will be more willing to report violence against them.
Staly said sometimes victims are fearful to report domestic violence because the relationship they're in is so abusive.