By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL — A city office aimed at curbing domestic violence and human trafficking will now head to city council, the Rockford Finance and Personnel Committee decided Monday night.
The special office is the brainchild of Tom McNamara, who has been studying domestic violence numbers in Rockford even before he decided to run for mayor. What he found, he said, is nothing short of staggering. Direct victims affected by domestic violence are not the only ones affected. The abuse is touching other areas of the city, and crimes committed by offenders who seem to get younger each year. Most of them, the mayor says, have resorted to crime in part because of what they’ve witnessed or perhaps endured as victims, at home.
“The vast majority of these young offenders that are out there waving a gun around to feel that sense of control have been themselves victims sexual, physical, or mental abuse in their own homes,” McNamara said. “So, them waving their gun around is their way of saying they have control over a situation.”
The Rockford Police Department is seeing the direct correlation, too. Almost 30 percent of all calls received by area law enforcement are domestic violence reports. That alone, officials say, is a statistic the city must curb, even in turbulent economic times when the city is facing a multi-million-dollar spending gap.
“And those are just the calls that are reported,” Alderman Frank Beach said. “But that certainly doesn’t mean that’s all there is.”
Beach said he’s behind the office and will vote for it when it comes in front of the full council as early as next week.
Alderman Natavias Ervins echoed Beach, but also noted that domestic violence is not just something he’s read about in reports from the police department. He’s lived it.
“I take this very personally,” Ervins said. “I’ve come out of tremendous domestic abuse in my home, and to see the results that came from that type of lifestyle, I thank God every day because I am not where I ought to be, according to statistics. I look at others who’ve come out of that, and their lives are not ones to brag about. And it hurts. Not only is there domestic abuse, but a lack of education. And when you get that combination, people suffer, and it carries throughout their entire life.”
The office will come with a startup cost of around $150,000 for IT, salaries and benefits.
“If we can take a fraction of those [domestic violence] cases down, we’ve paid for this office,” the mayor said. “More importantly, we’ve helped families and saved lives.”
Fifth Ward Alderman Venita Hervey cast the lone “no” tally, saying she would rather see the measure before council after Rockford’s budgetary issues are ironed out. She fears the city could get in deeper financially than initially expected and have to make cuts elsewhere to keep the office open.
“I’m certainly not going to fill a position and then lay off 15 or 20 police officers or public staff or whatever else we’re going to have to do,” Hervey.
The office will be funded through a variety of internal sources. R.