WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger’s arrest Friday on a domestic violence charge, both he and the alleged victim said the incident was blown out of proportion. That’s led a lot of people to wonder why Berger, or anyone in a similar situation, was charged and why police have the latitude to make such an arrest.
Police say often more than just a victim’s statement leads to an arrest.
“You tend to become concerned because you never know when it’s going to escalate,” said Det. Larry Egerton, who investigates domestic violence cases for the Wilmington Police Department. “Domestic violence starts out usually small and becomes bigger and bigger as it goes.”
Domestic violence cases are all too common in Wilmington. In fact police say there are about 100 cases reported each week. Egerton says most of those calls are not about first-time offenders.
“Domestic violence escalates, and we usually don’t get the call from someone until it’s the sixth, seventh or eighth time there has been an incident,” Egerton said. “Usually those incidents increase in velocity, and by the time we are called to an incident we often times know that it’s been more than just the words, that there’s probably been physical connection.”
Sometimes the person who called to report the incident changes their claims when officers arrive. Egerton says that does not mean the investigation is over. In fact it is just beginning. He says the victim’s call for help is often a big sign more has happened.
“Usually victims tell the truth when they are in distress, when something has just happened,” he said. “They don’t always see things as they think they did. Sometimes the next day they think they’ve seen it differently.”
Many people often associate domestic violence with some sort of physical abuse, but Egerton says that’s not always the case.
“Domestic violence takes all forms,” he said. “It’s a community issue as much as it is a personal issue. It takes forms of everything from arguments to threats to physical assaults.”
Egerton says domestic violence cases are up ten percent in North Carolina this year alone. It is a problem that often leads to an arrest.
“Just because somebody is charged doesn’t mean they are guilty,” Egerton said. “There has to be a further investigation. The investigation is made of probable cause that it probably happened more so than it did not.”
District Attorney Ben David told us despite what’s been reported by other media outlets, his office does not have a policy against dropping domestic violence cases. The case can be dropped just like any other charge, but he said for charges to be dropped cases must go through an informed review.