A 5-foot-3 woman answered the door of her neat, stuccoed Mesa home near East Brown Road and Sterling. A small boy, about 3 or 4, hugged her leg.
Shantel Belter, 25, is suspected of domestic violence. With a warrant for her arrest, Mesa police came Wednesday to pick up Belter in a roundup of domestic violence suspects.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Mesa Police Department and 31 other state law enforcement agencies, along with the U.S. Marshal Service, worked Tuesday night and Wednesday to arrest suspects en masse.
The sweep marked Arizona’s third annual domestic violence roundup. Police said the idea took root at a June 2004 meeting of the Domestic Violence Awareness Committee, a statewide group of 1,500 civilians.
Police talked with Belter and waited as she changed clothes. Then, they waited for her spouse to drive away with the little boy before they handcuffed her and drove her to jail. Officers said she may not even have to see a jail cell because her mother’s been called and given the chance to post the $500 bail. If Belter shows up at her next court date, her mother can get the money back.
Belter is an anomaly. Detective Coy Johnston, who co-heads Mesa’s Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team, said 90 percent of domestic violence aggressors are men.
But aside from gender, Johnston said, no socioeconomic, racial or religious trends stand out among perpetrators.
Mesa Family Violence detective Kurt Carlson said most of the warrants are for failure to appear in court. Others are for failure to pay court fees.
Johnston said the unit receives an average of 300 domestic violence cases each month, which he and his civilian counterpart, Andrea Sierra, classify by importance.
The unit is eight detectives and one sergeant strong. It forms part of Mesa’s Center Against Family Violence, located in offices on First Street — purposely removed from the police department’s main station a few blocks away.
The center is a refuge for domestic violence and assault victims. No suspects are allowed on the city-owned property, and the mural-adorned walls and toy rooms create a friendly atmosphere for children. It’s a paradigm for teamwork between social work and law enforcement: In a single complex, detectives and sergeants work alongside Child Protective Services, the Victim’s Assistance Program, forensic nurse practitioners and doctors, computer forensics, and a forensic psychologist. They all come together at the same table and share information.
“The reason the center works is because we can show victims that we’re going to work their case,” Johnston said. “There’s a better chance they’ll finish prosecuting their cases because they have confidence in us.”
“We’re not here to keep families together,” Johnston added. “We’re here to give victims (of domestic violence) resources. We help them take control.”
Statewide domestic violence roundup
• 245 arrests made
• 40 orders of protection served
• 423 officers participated
• 1,596 attempts at arrests or delivery of protection orders
• 33 state agencies involved
• One federal agency (U.S. Marshals)
• 20 hours