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Prosecuting an accused abuser has gotten easier since the first countywide domestic violence roundup was held 13 years ago.
Then it was common practice to dismiss cases if a victim of domestic violence was not cooperative.
Now at least 30 percent of such cases that come into the Toledo Municipal Court may move forward without testimony of the victims, many of whom were often intimidated by their abusive husbands or boyfriends from showing up in court, said Dave Toska, chief prosecutor for the city.
Attorneys, victim advocates, and law enforcement personnel shined a spotlight on the issue Wednesday during a news conference to announce the results of a day-long effort to arrest suspects charged with domestic violence-related crimes.
Changes in practice and evolving ideas about violence against women allow attorneys to present more photos of injuries, witness testimony or that of medical professionals and law enforcement, the officials said.
"It was a very difficult road to hoe without a victim" on the stand, Mr. Toska explained.
Many cases of domestic violence are long hidden before law enforcement becomes involved because victims may be conflicted about pressing charges against a loved one, said Lucas County Sheriff Sgt. Andrea Luna, head of the department's domestic violence program.
"With victims, you're dealing with an emotional bond; it's hard to step to the plate," Sergeant Luna said. The law "says we must prosecute with or without the victim."
Authorities arrested 51 suspects during the countywide Domestic Violence Roundup on Tuesday. In the three days before, at least 23 others were arrested on domestic violence-related offenses, as well as aggravated robbery, felonious assault, drug abuse, and trafficking, Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said during the news conference Wednesday.
The sweep of arrests is coordinated annually in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness month. Those arrested had been wanted for 25 felony and 185 misdemeanor warrants, including charges of aggravated robbery, felonious assault, drug abuse, and trafficking.
Participating officers represented various area law enforcement agencies, as well as the U.S. Marshal's Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and Ohio Adult Parole Authority. The most recent arrests represent one of the more successful day-long sweeps. One-day roundups in previous years netted 16 to 56 arrests.
Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said he wishes the most recent arrest numbers were higher, saying: "In a perfect world, I'd have 800 officers and a dozen detectives like Mary Jo Jaggers," referring to the department's lone domestic violence specialist.
"But we don't live in a perfect world. I have 566 officers. We do a much, much better job than we did 25 years ago. Society has changed. The tolerance level of domestic violence is a much, much lower level," Chief Navarre said.
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates noted that new programs to counsel victims of domestic violence and accused batterers have evolved in recent years.
"Take your sister, take your mother, take your wife and other loved ones [who] are suffering from this insidious disease and get them help," she said. "And maybe next year we'll be here and we won't have anyone to arrest."
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