County legislators heard some sobering statistics Tuesday at a "summit" meeting on domestic violence.
Dr. Ronald Moscati, attending physician at Erie County Medical Center, estimated that 3,000 or more of the injury cases in the emergency room each year result from batterings at home.
District Attorney Frank Clark said his office prosecuted 602 domestic violence felony cases between January and June this year.
"A very frightening statistic is that almost 20 percent of the homicides are domestic violence homicides," Clark said.
The conference was called by Legislator Lynn Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, as a follow-up to a similar gathering two years ago. That resulted in police agencies and hospitals trying to follow similar practices, resulting in more prosecutions.
Ms. Marinelli urged closer cooperation to get the most out of the millions of dollars the county invests through different departments to target domestic violence.
As department heads reported on their hierarchies' separate efforts to combat such violence, the definition of domestic violence expanded.
Probation Director Christopher Clark said so far this year there are 58 probation cases involving domestic violence, and 46 of those involved unmarried couples who are living together.
Dr. Ellen Grant Bishop, commissioner of mental health, said another form of domestic violence is the sexual abuse of children, which frequently occurs within the home. She said many abusers themselves were abused as children.
James Mayer, supervisor of protective services in the Senior Services Department, reported that in the past 12 months, 700 elderly people were victims of domestic cruelty, usually from their own children. In half the cases, he said, the children are taking control of their parents' lives and assets.
"We are dealing in domestic violence every day in the child welfare system," noted Social Services Commissioner Deborah Merrifield.
The department heads spoke of their efforts to educate police officers and others in the community, and several said they needed more money for their work.
Ms. Marinelli said that doing everything possible to reduce domestic violence is very much a county issue. "There are a dozen departments that work on this issue," said Ms. Marinelli. "Some work together. Some work on their own."