The police scanner provided me a saddening study in contrasts on Christmas Day.
As always, it was on in the background in my home. While my family was enjoying laughs and love, I kept hearing radio transmissions about families that weren’t experiencing either of those. Their day was filled with tears and hatred.
Niagara County Sheriff deputies were dispatched to an alarming number of domestic situations -- verbal and even physical altercations between family members or exes. Those calls began early, at a time when families should be sharing special moments around the Christmas tree, and they continued well into the evening, when there should be joy around the dinner table.
It was as if the holiday, a day about the universal love, bred contempt and awakened the beasts within those who don’t understand and might never understand what love is. Never had I heard a Christmas like this on the airwaves. It was depressing.
Some might say 2020 and all that it was created that problem.
No. I would say that 2020 only amplified what already existed.
Beyond the Christmas explosion, one needs only to listen to that same police scanner on any given evening or weekend. It seems that the calls for domestic situations are endless. Our officers have to be peacekeepers in homes as much as on the streets. They are called to calm altercations playing themselves out before young children, they have to keep women from verbally abusing their husbands, they have to prevent men from following through on physical and sexual threats to their girlfriends, and they have to protect kids from physical, mental and sexual harm.
According to data provided by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, all police departments within Niagara County reported 1,225 arrests for domestic violence in 2019. Among them were 1,052 cases of simple assault, 106 cases of aggravated assault and 40 sexual offenses against a family member, 29 of which were not the intimate partner.
Mind you, those are just the cases recorded as actual arrests.
There were thousands of 911 calls for domestic arguments and other forms of verbal abuse. The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office alone responds to approximately 4,000 such calls every year. There were thousands more covered by the city police in Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Lockport. And, remember, most victims and witnesses remain silent; there are tens of thousands of situations that go unreported.
You can’t help but feel for those affected by such monstrosities -- the victims, the innocents, and especially the kids raised in unloving homes or exposed to hateful people.
Think about your kids and how long and powerfully they hoped for Christmas to arrive and the thoughts they had of what Christmas is and could be. Then, think about those other kids less fortunate who, living in the miserable circumstances of 2020 and the miserable circumstances of their day-to-day life, had those same dreams but at a greater intensity, because they wanted that one day – one day! -- of happiness, joy and love. But, that day was stolen from them, as so many days are.
And, it’s a call to action.
The unrest in their homes means unrest in our communities: The vitality and morality of a society can be measured by how it treats its children. We must be there for them. You see, those same kids dealt a bad hand on Christmas are given the same the rest of the year…and this year even more so than others as they’ve been sequestered, due to Covid lockdowns, in those unhealthy environments.
So, on the other side of Covid, whenever some normalcy, some access, returns, it’s up to us as coaches, teachers, scout leaders and other mentors to help them and provide the respect, guidance and positive examples that they sorely need and deserve.
If you create one New Year’s resolution, make it that. Do what’s possible to make not only Christmas Day but every day brighter for the kids who need you. Be the light in their darkness. Give them hope. Give them a better tomorrow. Give them love.
From the 28 December 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News