Domestic Violence Cases Triple in Lea County

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

LEA COUNTY, NEW MEXICO - Lea County organizations tell NewsWest 9, the number of domestic violence cases are "incredible." In just the past year their numbers have tripled. One safe haven in Hobbs is trying to sort it all out.

Dinora Carrejo-Guthrie started Option, Inc. 30 years ago, counseling and housing victims of domestic violence. She's seen quite a few changes over three decades but none quite like this: last year they served over 1,000 Lea County clients. This year, it's over 3,000.

"The alcohol and all these things or just a combination, is wreaking havoc in this area," Dinora Carrejo-Guthrie, Executive Director of Option, Inc. said. "I don't know what to think half the time. I've been here 30 years and it's just increased so much."

The counselors have pinpointed two main reasons for the increase: the souring economy and a new influx of families moving in to work at the WCS and LES plants.

"Abusing verbally, physically, sexually," Guthrie said. "There are all types of abuse that go on. It's not just physical."

Not only is the shelter packed, but they're filing more restraining orders than ever. Typically they had two or three a day, now they're up to eight.

"We have to now make appointments for them which is difficult, because so many times people want an immediate restraining order," Guthrie said.

Hobbs Police Officer Mike Stone tells NewsWest 9, he would rather go to an armed robbery than a domestic violence call. Those calls are often the most dangerous - sending officers into severe emotional turmoil.

"We deal with domestic violence all the time on a 24 hour basis," Officer Stone said. "It's roughly one or more calls per hour."

Now Options Inc. is not only taking care of the victims, they're holding counseling services for the men and women offenders.

"What we were doing was just putting a bandaid on women - putting them in a shelter and helping them out as much as we could," Guthrie said. "We needed the source which was the abuser and they needed to learn."

Guthrie also said one of her biggest concerns right now is funding. She recently learned the state would be cutting back on many agencies and they're in a holding pattern to find out how those cutbacks will affect the shelter.