AMESBURY — As part of the Amesbury Police Department’s efforts to lobby city councilors to accept a $250,000 federal grant allowing the law enforcement agency to hire one or more school resource officers, it has released sobering statistics on a number of related issues including domestic violence calls, the homeless population and the rise of single mothers living under the poverty line.
The Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant comes with provision that the city must agree to match 25 percent, around $70,000, within 90 days of the award. That requires the City Council to formally accept the grant. Mayor Thatcher Kezer said he is expected to introduce a bill asking the council to accept the grant in time for its November meeting.
But judging by the political mood of the City Council, accepting the grant could be a challenge.
Earlier this week, councilor at-large Jim Kelcourse expressed reservations about asking taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets while District 3 councilor Donna McClure questioned the need to have armed officers inside the schools.
According to statistics released by local police and the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, there were 392 reported domestic violence incidents in 2012 involving 163 children. From Jan. to April of this year, there have been 117 reported cases of domestic violence with 53 children involved, a significant rise percentage-wise based on 2012.
The last count of documented homeless people living in Amesbury is at 156, including 60 children, according to statistics provided by the Salisbury-based social services agency, the Pettengill House. Citywide, 24 percent of all children are living in low-income homes and Amesbury has the fastest growing population (per capita in the state) of single parents, mostly women, with preschool-aged children living at or below the poverty level.
Perhaps most troubling, in 2011 the Massachusetts Department of Family and Child Services declared the city to be an “at risk community for child maltreatment,” according to Pettengill House statistics.