Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Warm weather prompts more calls to police

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Sunday July 5, 2015 5:50 PM

As the summer heats up, so does the number of fights and domestic-violence incidents reported to Johnstown police.

Within the past two weeks, the department received nine reports of fights.

From January through May this year, police records show five assault charges were filed, compared to 10 filed in all of 2014 and 10 in 2013.

In 2013, 83 domestic-violence charges were filed in Johnstown; in 2014, that number increased slightly to 89.

Through May this year, 30 domestic-violence charges have been filed.

"You'd always like to see those numbers lower. I mean, with those numbers, that's nearly two a week," Chief Don Corbin said. "We're not going to just immediately take someone to jail. We will try and offer them a solution. However, if the police are called to a situation, then we will do our job, which sometimes means filing charges."

Corbin said one reason the domestic-violence numbers are higher is because under state law, if there is evidence of a physical assault, the assailant should be charged.

With bar fights, for instance, the victim has the option whether to press charges.

The majority of fights Johnstown officers investigate involve alcohol or drug use by at least one of the participants, Corbin said.

"Seldom are both participants sober," he said. "And that's why a lot of fights happen in bars or parking lots of bars."

In addition, he said, in the summertime, more people are out in nice weather, daylight lasts longer and, with hot weather, people are more likely to drink.

"Sometimes the heat can make people more irritable and they can be more quick to lose their temper," he said.

Corbin said officers often see the same individuals over and over when they respond to calls.

"It seems to be 1 percent causing 90 percent of the problems," he said. "We might see someone on Friday for a fight, Sunday for domestic violence and then on Wednesday for a theft investigation."

A donor has agreed to give four body cameras to the police department, and officers have been testing their use for the past month, Corbin said.

"I think they are a great idea and are helpful, but we still have some legal questions to work out with using the video cameras," he said.