Study: Domestic violence costs Pinellas Co. $132 million yearly

Domestic violence is costing Pinellas County $132 million a year, according to a new study from USF St. Petersburg.

Researchers say crimes of domestic violence impacts entire communities, not just families.  

USF researchers looked at domestic violence cases in Pinellas County, pointing out why it’s so costly for victims, businesses, and taxpayers.

It's an under-reported crime, coming to light in a new way.

"We were all surprised by the legal and court costs, in particular, the costs to the police force," said Rebecca Harris, an economics instructor at USF.

Harris worked on the study, showing how the crime burdens society. The study found that more than half of the costs, about $81 million, are costs to the community, including missed workdays, moving children to foster care, healthcare for victims, and court and law enforcement resources.

"We found that police officers spend something like 38 percent of their time on domestic violence cases, which adds up to a lot of money," said Harris.

The study found the long-term impact costs $37 million, which includes the loss of lifetime earnings due to premature death and the value of a lifetime suffering from abuse. The cost of health care was found to be around $5.5 million, including emergency room visits, physical therapy, and mental health care, according to the study. 

It also found costs for emergency housing and valuables left behind when leaving a domestic violence situation to be around $4.5 million, and the cost of support services came to $3.5 million.

The numbers broke down to $21,000 for every domestic violence case, and researchers and prevention agencies said the community can change that by helping to prevent abuse.

Lariana Forsythe, the CEO of Community Action Stops Abuse or CASA, worked with USF to show how big of a problem the crime is locally in Pinellas County.

"We really as a culture and a society really need to be taking a different look at domestic violence, and the economic impact study will help us do that," said Forsythe.

She said one place to start is at the workplace, just by learning the signs.

"When we look at businesses and they begin to understand that having programs in place and having the opportunity to converse with employees about the situations they may be in, there's a financial benefit for them being able to do so besides just being the right thing to do," said Forsythe.

Researchers said the costs are actually higher since domestic violence is an under-reported crime. Harris said those numbers can apply to other counties in the Bay Area. Forsythe said CASA and USF plan to present the findings to local city leaders and raise more awareness.