When we came into office in 1994, we pledged to bring the problem of domestic violence out from behind closed doors. For too long, women and children across the city were victimized in their own homes, and the City ignored their plight. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss the progress and reaffirm our commitment to this critical issue.
For the last five years, we have operated under one simple premise -- domestic violence is a crime. It is a very serious crime. And our strategies reflect this approach:
New York City Police Department's domestic violence strategy now mandates arrests of abusers and focuses more police resources on the problem. We now have more than 300 NYPD officers and detectives dedicated to domestic violence, including at least two in every single precinct. We also established a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week central city hotline for domestic violence to provide emergency counseling and referrals for victims, the only hotline of its kind in the nation. The hotline receives thousands of calls each month. Not long ago, many of those victims would have suffered in silence.
Across the city today, there should be no mistake that we have a zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence. Total arrests in family-related incidents have increased by 79 percent, and arrests for violation of orders of protection have increased 99 percent, between fiscal years 1994 and 1998.
At the same time that we've improved our enforcement techniques, we've strengthened the support network for victims and enhanced domestic violence prevention. We've increased shelter bed space, developed innovative alternatives to shelters, and dedicated domestic violence coordinators in every municipal health care facility in the five boroughs.
We have a long way to go before all victims of domestic violence feel safe in their homes. But if the strides we've made over the last five years are any indication, the goal is within our reach. If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you don't need to feel ashamed, alone or afraid. Please call, or urge them to call, our free, multi-lingual hotline for information and assistance. That number is 1-800-621-HOPE.
I'd also like to talk about the ongoing relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as those islands continue to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Georges.
For several days I was in those islands at the request of their governments, personally visiting towns and villages damaged by the Hurricane and making sure that relief is getting to those that need it.
Last Saturday I met with the President of the Dominican Republic, the Mayor of Santo Domingo and the Governor of Puerto Rico. All wanted me to send their thanks to the people of New York, for your generosity and steadfast friendship in this difficult time.
Over 820,000 pounds of food and water have left New York for the stricken areas, as well as dozens of generators used to help restore power to the islands. In addition, a 63-person team of New York City Firefighters and Police Officers -- expertly trained in disaster relief -- dropped supplies into isolated areas.
These areas included Sammy Sosa's hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, where they treated over 300 people injured in the storm, including seven children who were desperately malnourished and dehydrated.
I know that many New Yorkers have been concerned about the well-being of their families and friends. Progress there is slow, but it is steady -- despite the destructive power of Hurricane Georges, the people of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico remain undaunted in the face of adversity.
Trees have been knocked down, roads blocked and homes destroyed. But people there are struggling to rebuild what they've lost and slowly life is returning to normal.
I'm proud and the people there are grateful that New Yorkers, along with people around the world, responded with such unanimity to the threat of Hurricane Georges. The rebuilding will go on for months and right now the people are still suffering, but they feel better knowing that the rest of the world is with them, offering strength and support in their time of need.