CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A new report by Cleveland State University is shining a light on nuisance ordinances across Cuyahoga County and how those laws may prevent victims of domestic violence from calling for help.
Right now, 23 cities in Cuyahoga County have what's known as criminal activity nuisance ordinances.
They're laws that keep track of 911 calls and punish people who call too many times, including domestic violence victims.
Calls to 911 from domestic violence victims are the most frequent calls dispatchers get. People phone for help as they try to escape violence at home.
"That lifeline of 911 and reaching out for immediate assistance is absolutely valuable," said Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center Interim CEO Leslie Quilty.
In nearly two dozen Northeast Ohio communities, calling for help too many times can land abuse victims on a nuisance ordinance list.
That means, cities may fine or even evict them.
"You're between a rock and a hard place. Do I call 911 and help myself in this most immediate situation? Or do I save my housing and not call?" said Quilty.
Quilty knows that's a decision no one should have to make, which is why Cleveland State University graduate student Marissa Pappas took on nuisance laws as a class project.
"Cities are under the impression these laws can recover safety force costs by responding too many times to a house.
"They also think that this makes neighborhoods safer or sometimes it addresses crime, but what we're finding is that's not quite the case. In fact, they're being enforced against victims of crime and folks who are calling 911 for help," said Pappas.
One in four women and one in five men are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives.
For many, it takes multiple attempts to break free from an abusive relationship.
Pappas hopes CSU's research helps protect victims and gives them courage to continue to ask for help.