Law agencies send zero tolerance message to offenders during the Family Violence Apprehension DetailDomestic abuse crimes - and the people who commit them - were the targets of a special police sweep Thursday evening, as law enforcement personnel armed with dozens of arrest warrants tracked down local offenders.
The sweep was part of the Family Violence Apprehension Detail, a nationwide effort to crack down on people accused or convicted of assault, harassment and other crimes related to domestic violence.
Two dozen personnel from Oregon State Police, Clatsop County Sheriff's Office and all five city police
departments scoured the county,
from downtown Astoria to Brownsmead, in search of people wanted
on 79 warrants for various domestic violence-related offenses.
The sweep also took in people who are the targets of restraining orders, and registered sex offenders. Police visited the residences of almost 30 victims to make sure that restraining orders and no-contact orders were not being violated, and checked on 36 sex offenders to see that they were complying with rules that require them to notify local authorities of their places of residence.
Six people were arrested on warrants and a seventh apprehended for violating a no-contact order, and lodged in Clatsop County Jail. Seven sex offenders were found to be out of compliance because they were not living at their registered addresses, and warrants were issued for their arrest. Another warrant was also issued for a man found to have violated a restraining order by having contact with the victim.
The apprehension detail was begun in 2001 by Clackamas County, which invited the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office to take part this year. A total of 15 Oregon counties and 16 states participated in the sweep.
The effort, which also included representatives from the state courts, district attorney's office, community corrections department and Oregon Department of Human Services, was meant to get the message out that domestic violence offenders can't escape punishment.
"Even if the warrant is for harassment, a (Class) C misdemeanor,
we are going to come out and try
to find you, and hold you accountable," said Clatsop County Sheriff's Detective Kristen Hanthorn, who
coordinated the operation.
Not all those arrested came willingly. One suspect was found hiding in a closet drinking a beer. Another tried to outrun officers - on a bicycle. A third escaped by running into a walk-in freezer in an Seaside restaurant.
Most of the warrants were for people who have ignored trial and hearing dates in court, or violated terms of their parole and probation. The sheriff's office releases of a list of new warrants each week for its staff to serve, but the backlog can grow quickly as deputies try to fit in warrant-service among all their other duties.
"It's hit or miss," Hanthorn said. "They try to contact people, but if you have 10 or 15 warrants a week, and you only get to five, the others stack up, and you can get to 40 unserved warrants by the end of the month."
One police team included Astoria Police Detective Eric Halverson and OSP Senior Trooper Brad Kneaper. Halverson has been a detective with the department for two years, but remembers domestic violence calls were a regular part of his shift as an officer.
"When I was on patrol, it was a pretty regular occurrence, about one every shift," he said.
The two started the day's searches with a trip to Brownsmead to find a man wanted for failing to appear for a court date on a charge of coercion. No one was home at the home listed as his address, but Kneaper and Halverson found that the target of their search also had a restraining order issued against him by his former wife. They drove to her home, where the woman's current boyfriend said the couple had had no contact with the man for almost a year.
"It's not uncommon to bounce from place to place to place tracking someone down," Halverson said, heading back to Astoria. "Sometimes it takes a lot of time to get information on someone."
About 150 restraining orders were issued in Clatsop County this year alone. In Thursday's sweep the police were out to make sure that the targets of the orders weren't in contact with the victims who took them out - even if the victims willingly allowed the person back in their homes, Halverson said.
"For a restraining order to be effective, the victim has to follow through with it, and let us know when the other person is violating that order," he said.
The checks get the message out that those named in the orders must obey them, and offer reassurance to victims that the orders will be enforced, he said.
The process for a victim to rescind a restraining order is a lengthy one - the person must first take a class on domestic violence - and many simply don't bother and allow the target of the order to have contact again. That reduces the effectiveness of restraining orders and fails to hold people accountable, Hanthorn said. If a restraining order is in place, police will arrest the target even the person has permission from the victim to have contact.
"A court-ordered restraining order should be an important document," she said.