PHENIX CITY, Ala. — Phenix City Police are teaming up with a child advocacy group in an effort to prevent the growing trend of crimes involving children. The Russell County Child Advocacy Center reports this year so far, they are handling 134 cases involving physical and sexual abuse, as well as severe neglect and witnessing violence.
All of last year, the center handled 138 cases. The center is on pace to see nearly 180 cases this year, which would mark a 30% increase in reported cases involving child victims. The Russell County CAC hopes a stronger partnership with local law enforcement could reverse the alarming trend.
News 3 reached out to the Alabama Department of Human Resources to learn just how serious abuse is in the viewing area. Barbour County had 36 cases of reported child physical and sexual abuse in 2016. Chambers County had 71, Lee County had 94 cases, and finally, Russell County had 32 reported cases.
Russell County CAC is counting on better education to help children and families in need. The agency helps children who are physically or sexually abused, witnessed violence, and are the victims of human trafficking or internet crime. Lynn Hammock makes a living helping children at the heart of heinous crimes. She is the executive director of the advocacy center.
“It’s like a loss, and you’re going through the whole grief process,” Hammock said. “You’re going through the anger, and the sadness, and the grief, and experience just like you do a death.”
Hammock noticed an uptick in the number of cases reported to them over the past couple of years.
“They want to mimic or mock whatever they’re seeing,” Hammock said. “They’re just doing what’s been done to them by an adult offender.”
She says children can also act out violence on other kids.
“Personal cell phones, cell phone devices, internet access..as more and more things become more available and accessible to the community, that just opens up the opportunity for more and more victims,” Phenix City Police Chief Raymond Smith said.
With the rising trend in crime, the police department is boosting their partnership with the Russell County CAC.
“Not just the back side after the investigation is done trying to heal these young victims, but now to educate parents and children themselves on how to prevent them from becoming a victim in the first place,” Chief Smith told News 3.
Chief Smith says the community donated $8,000 to educate more families. for Lynn Hammock, a rise in reported crimes is not a curse, but rather a blessing in disguise.
“You see your child who walked in shattered, crying, not knowing what’s going to happen the next day,” Hammock explained. “Six months later, they can walk in smiling. They’re laughing, and people are constantly saying ‘How are you doing and what can we do to help you.’ You’ve made a difference in those people’s lives, and that makes it all worthwhile. The day that we don’t have a job we’ll be okay, because that means there’s a child that’s not being abused.”
This year, the Russell County Child Advocacy Center is tracking reported incidents of human trafficking. Along with children, the center also helps adults with special needs.