On Sunday, Feb. 24, the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force will honor the memories of domestic violence victims in 2012 with a special candlelight vigil at Largo Central Park.
According to Frieda Widera, victim advocate for the Largo Police Department, last year saw an unusually high rate of homicides related to domestic violence in the county, prompting the decision to hold the vigil.
"We had a high number of domestic violence homicides — 13 of them — in 2012," said Widera, who is also the chair of the fatality review team.
"Of those 13, five were homicide/suicide cases. So we felt we needed to do something to help bring awareness to this issue. The vigil is a way to raise awareness and get people thinking about lives lost to domestic violence."
Widera said the task force is made up of a number of local law enforcement agencies as well as domestic violence prevention organizations, including the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department; the Largo, Pinellas Park and Clearwater Police departments; the Veterans Administration; St. Pete-based Community Action Stops Abuse organization; and state attorney's offices.
"Major cases like the Pistorius case and others we've had in the county do bring more attention to the issue," she said. "We see them as teachable moments, as an opportunity to educate the public about the dangers of domestic violence.
"In any domestic violence case, a large percentage of the time somebody knew what was going on," she added. "We try to educate people, help them make quick decisions and recognize the situation so they can prevent a tragedy from occurring."
According to figures released by the task force, there are more than 20,000 calls to the domestic violence hotline every year, and more than 6,000 cases where an arrest is made with enough evidence for a possible prosecution. Most studies show that these represent fewer than half of the actual violent incidents.
The candlelight vigil will be held in the Veteran's Court section of Largo Central Park at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24. The park is located at 101 Central Park Dr.
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