City Attorney Mike Feuer and District Attorney Jackie Lacey launched a new campaign April 24 called “Behind Closed Doors,” a public safety campaign to bring awareness to in-home crimes happening around Los Angeles.
In a press conference, Feuer said the shelter-in-place orders put the most vulnerable residents in even greater harm.
“I’m very alarmed at what appears to be a dramatic decrease in reporting of crimes relating to our most vulnerable,” Feuer said. “What goes on behind closed doors can remain invisible and sometimes be deadly.”
Feuer said in the month since the emergency order to stay at home was issued, there has been a 47% drop in reported physical child abuse and a 67% drop in reported sexual child abuse. He also said there has been a 50% reduction in reporting of elder abuse and a 13% drop in domestic violence reporting. These decreases, he said, are not because there is simply less child abuse happening but because of less reporting.
“We’re launching our ‘Behind Closed Doors’ campaign and partnering with our grocers and school district to alert delivery personnel, home repair workers, neighbors, family and friends to immediately text or call 911 if you believe someone needs help,” Feuer said.
The “Behind Closed Doors” campaign aims to enlist consumers and essential workers like grocers, service providers and delivery personnel to be alert and aware of in-home crimes and report any suspicions of abuse or neglect.
It shared a flier of hotlines and information for shelters for people experiencing in-home crimes and where they can get help. With the help of the California Grocers Association and the Los Angeles Unified School District, this information will be on a flier displayed and handed out in grocery stores and Grab and Go Food Centers so that anyone can access them.
“We in law enforcement are especially concerned right now with protecting the people who live, work and visit Los Angeles County from domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse,” Lacey said. “It’s up to all of us to make sure that our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues get through this public health emergency without becoming a victim of crime.”
Lacey said in-home crimes don’t stop because of a pandemic or crisis and typically happen behind closed doors. Before the pandemic, teachers, medical professionals and other community members reported these crimes for victims who could not or would not seek help, but because of business and school closures, that resource has been forced to stop.
Lacey said it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to reporting suspected abuse. When looking for signs or evidence of potential abuse, some signs to keep an eye out for are unexpected bruises, marks or injuries. When it comes to seniors, neglect is also a form of abuse, and though senior centers are closed to outsiders, Lacey said to keep in contact with loved ones in these centers to make sure they are OK.
“I’m asking every person who lives and works in Los Angeles County to keep an eye out for people who may need your help,” she said. “You don’t have to be a victim yourself to call these hotlines and make a report a crime. Others are depending upon you to take notice and do something.”
The campaign isn’t the only aggressive step Los Angeles is taking when it comes to in-home crimes. Feuer said the city attorney’s office is doing check-ins with victims of elder abuse or domestic abuse. The sheriff’s office is also doing welfare checks on locations where child abuse may be present.
“Our office is checking in with elderly victims and victims of domestic violence as well to see how things are going,” Feuer said. “Merely that checking in may surface additional information and also provide comfort and connection to those victims.”
Lacey said essential businesses like grocery stores are a safe haven for victims who are isolated with their abuser, and the city of Los Angeles has to congregate as a community and say something if abuse of any kind is suspected.
“Be their voice, call in and let us check on them to make sure they’re OK instead of later saying, ‘Gee, I wish I would’ve done something,’” she said.
To find out more information about “Behind Closed Doors” and other efforts the city attorney’s office is doing, visit lacityattorney.org/covid19.