Reports of domestic violence in the city are escalating, with police expecting nearly 5,000 more calls for help than last year.
In the first six months of this year, 10,694 calls have been made, according to police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr., who estimates that figure will double to more than 21,000 by year's end.
Last year, police received 16,464 domestic violence-related calls, from 14,415 in 1995.
In an effort to help domestic violence victims who have called police -- and especially those who haven't -- Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier unveiled 10 eye-catching billboards yesterday.
They are the first part of an education program that will include brochures with telephone numbers to call and training to help officers detect domestic violence.
Standing at the foot of a billboard at Lafayette Avenue and Payson Street, Frazier said he hoped its slogan, "Love should not mean fear," under a photograph of a battered woman and child cowering in the shadow of a man would encourage victims to call police.
"We don't want kids to think that this is the kind of behavior that's OK in a family," Frazier said at a news conference. "We have to break the cycle of violence, and we can't break [it] if it's not reported."
Frazier, surrounded by officers from the city's domestic violence units, said the billboards and brochures cost about $9,000, which came from a grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Carole Alexander, executive director of the House of Ruth, which counsels and shelters battered women, called the program a good first step in curbing what she believes are 150,000 incidents of domestic violence every year in Baltimore.
"It's [perhaps] the most underreported crime," she said. "I think education and awareness are crucial to ending violence against women."
While police believe the increase in reported domestic violence may be traced to more people willing to call for help, rather than more cases, Alexander said there was no way of knowing.
"I have a sense that there may be increased domestic violence," she said, adding: "It's just a hunch. I honestly can't answer in a factual way."
Police define domestic violence as involving people in a marriage, or a relationship or who have had children together.
The brochures, which are in English, Spanish and Korean, will be available in several weeks in all the police districts and given to victims and community groups, said police.
They include the signs of domestic violence and telephone numbers of places such as the House of Ruth, which has advised police on domestic abuse cases for 15 years.
The billboards rise above such areas as Linden and North avenues, Pulaski Highway and Monument Street, and 27th and Remington streets.
They were designed to catch the attention of victims, who are often isolated by their abusers, said Col. Margaret Patten, domestic violence coordinator for the Police Department.
"This is the first step to break that isolation," she said.
Pub Date: 7/12/97