Domestic violence is up 25 percent in Kingston and off the charts in Atkinson.
All Southern New Hampshire towns are reporting an increase in calls and arrests, something local police and victims advocates say is another effect of a poor economy. When money is tight, frustration builds, and a shortage of money can prevent some women from leaving abusive situations, advocates say.
As a result, local women's shelters are almost full.
Atkinson is seeing the greatest increase of all.
Police there have arrested 11 people on domestic assault charges so far this year, compared to just one over the same time frame last year, according to Lt. William Baldwin. Harassment charges have been filed in 22 domestic cases this year versus 14 last year.
And it isn't just the numbers. Assaults in town are becoming more severe in nature, he said.
"I also find that some displays of violent action are getting worse and worse," Baldwin said.
As the degree of domestic violence worsens, women are staying longer at shelters, according to Maureen McDonald, spokeswoman for the state Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
"The number of people accessing the shelters went down, but (the number of) nights spent there is unusually high," McDonald said. "We had that number increase from 2006 to 2007 by 16 percent. That stood out to us."
That's been the case at Emily's Place, a YWCA emergency shelter in Derry. Program director Carrie Cooley said the shelter, which accommodates six families, has been full since just after Christmas.
She's been referring victims to 11 other YWCA-affiliated shelters, none of which are local. If a domestic violence victim cannot travel, Cooley said, she tries to secure victim compensation assistance for them.
"The impact that the economy has is the inability for victims to find safe and affordable housing for women and children to live in," she said.
So more women are forced to stay at home, experts say, where the abuse often becomes increasingly violent.
Hampstead police are responding to the same number of houses, but what they are finding has prompted a 33 percent increase in domestic-violence arrests this year, according to Lt. John Frazer.
"The (call) numbers are kind of the same. It's just the physical violence (that's increased)," he said.
Hampstead police have responded to 26 homes for some sort of dispute, and arrested 16 people so far this year. Officers went to 22 homes and made 10 arrests from January to mid-June in 2007, he said.
In Kingston, police are responding to more homes and making more arrests.
The increase in calls is about 25 percent, according to Chief Donald Briggs. Police have had 49 calls to date in 2008. There were just 37 by this time last year.
About 40 percent of those calls have resulted in assault charges and arrests, he said.
Salem police have responded to more than 300 domestic calls this year, according to Capt. Shawn Patten. Police investigated 115 of those incidents and many of them led to arrests, but Patten could not provide the actual number.
"We have a ton of domestic calls and a ton of arrests," he said.
Those numbers are up significantly over last year's statistics.
In all of 2007, there were 34 domestic assaults, 21 nonviolent family offenses and 186 nonviolent domestics, according to Salem's annual town report.
There are a number of reasons why women stay in abusive homes and relationships, according to Elaine, an advocate for A Safe Place in Salem. Her last name is not being used because of her line of work.
But monetary issues are rising to the top of that list of reasons these days, she said.
Some women aren't allowed by their abusers to work, so they don't have any job skills. Others work, but aren't allowed to keep their pay, Elaine said. She said she sees women from all social and economic classes.
"The economic times hit everyone," she said. "People who have these big houses to run can't afford them. Generally, it's the victim's fault (according to the abuser)."
That's what police have found in Plaistow. Violence isn't necessarily up there, but frustrations are, according to Deputy Chief Kathleen Jones.
Most of the 57 calls officers have responded to this year have been "shouting matches," she said. Police separate the parties involved and quell the situation, but there isn't much else that can be done.
"Usually, it's an indicator of the economy," Jones said. "Times get tough; it can create more bad tempers."
That's part of what Baldwin says is to blame for Atkinson's large increase in domestic violence — finances, alcohol and drugs.
"Money and unemployment are key issues," he said. "When you have those two, plus a family to deal with, it makes it more difficult to tolerate. Plus, alcohol is a strong issue — and drugs — in many of the cases we see."
Baldwin said they respond to the same houses numerous times for domestic calls, but they can't make an arrest until there is an assault or the victim cooperates with police.
Some victims want to forget it happened the next day, he said, but domestic violence is a behavior that often repeats itself. By state law, once an arrest is made, the state will go forward with prosecution, regardless of whether the victim wants that.
From there, the court will assign an advocate to work with the victim and help him or her through the process.
Resources for victims of abuse
r A Safe Place has a 24-hour hot line, advocates available to speak with in person during the day, and an emergency shelter for evenings for victims in Atkinson, Danville, Hampstead, Pelham, Salem and Windham. Call 890-6392.
r The YWCA Crisis Center provides confidential support and advocacy for women in Derry and Londonderry. Call 432-2687.
Domestic disturbance calls since Jan. 1
Town%Calls this year%Calls last year%Arrests this year%Arrests last year
*For all of 2007.
**Number of cases investigated, many of which led to arrests.