Jennings County’s 911 center received a record-number of calls in 2012, fueled in part by economic and social factors, community leaders said.
The 22,796 calls made in Jennings County represented almost a 6 percent increase from 2011 to 2012, according to an annual report by Jennings County 911.
Domestic dispute was the most common type of emergency call received, followed by theft. Drunken driving, reckless driving and traffic complaints rounded out the top five.
Local law enforcement received 506 calls last year to handle domestic disputes — abusive or threatening acts or words inflicted by one member of a family or household on another.
The Jennings County Council on Domestic Violence reported that cases of domestic abuse jumped 253 percent from 2005 to 2011.
The number of abuse cases last year surpassed the 2011 total of 405 by the end of June, according to JCCDV Director Jeanie Hahn.
North Vernon Mayor Harold “Soup” Campbell a former Jennings County sheriff, thinks unemployment explains much of the increase. The county’s unemployment rate for December was 10.2 percent. Only nine Hoosier counties had a higher rate.
Matt Alexander, the 911 director, also said he sees a correlation between the higher numbers and the number of people out of work and a sour economy.
National studies appear to support their thinking. A report by the National Institute of Justice found that the rate of violence against women increases as male unemployment increases.
Alexander also said illegal drug activity factors into the escalating number of emergency calls. The 911 center received 212 calls for drug-related offenses, making it the eighth-most-common type of call.
Campbell said he thinks several people who have committed recent crimes in his county are acting out of desperation more than disregard for the the law.
Researchers at Ohio State University, who examined national crime rates over a 20-year period, reported in 2010 that an increase in crime can be explained by falling wages and rising unemployment among men without college educations.
Jennings County received 461 theft calls reports last year and 374 for breaking and entering.
An average of one burglary every nine days was reported throughout the county last year, with most of them taking place between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Many of the thefts involve stealing outside items to sell for scrap metal, as well as taking items out of cars and trucks,” Alexander said. “This means you need to lock your vehicle and secure outdoor items, as well as ensuring your home is secure.”
Bad driving as a whole — fueled by complaints of drunken or reckless driving and traffic complaints — was the most common collective category of emergency calls. Last year, there were 428 complaints made of suspected drunken drivers, followed closely followed by 397 calls for reckless driving. Traffic complaint calls totaled 301.
Alexander doesn’t think there’s been a recent change in irresponsible driving. Rather, he said more reports are being made due to the growing availability of cellphones, which contribute to distracted driving. These types of calls account for 71 percent of all calls made to his agency, he said.
He said he wasn’t surprised by any of the data that emerged from the 2012 end-of-year report, with one exception.
“The only thing that stood out for me was that we keep getting busier and busier,” Alexander said. “And when they finish the U.S. 50 bypass, that’s going to make us even busier. There are challenges ahead for public safety, but I’m confident (law enforcement and emergency workers) will be able to handle them.”