TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - When you step inside Associate Presiding Judge Peter Hochuli's court room, you can immediately guess what cases he presides over.
The stuffed animals, Star Wars posters, and coloring books are all there to help relax those who sit across from him.
One thing he deals with is child abuse cases, something he said they have seen a little bit of a spike in during this time of COVID-19. He can’t completely equate it to the virus, as they see spikes at different times.
"When you take a look at the cases, we have up and down times at all different times of the years," said Judge Hochuli. "On years that we’ve had extremely high numbers out here—we can try and guess but there’s really no way to pinpoint it.”
Despite being able to completely pinpoint it, juvenile court advocates said there are factors that can lead to unsafe environments. Something that is happening right now.
"Abusers typically inflict more abuse or neglect on others because it’s their sense of control so with isolation and the stress that this pandemic is causing, we are likely to see more cases come into Pima County.”
Angie McBride is the Program Recruiter for Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, and is putting out a call for volunteers with 2,600 kids in need. A number McBride sees going up when school goes back in session.
“We are expected to have an increased number of child abuse cases here in Pima county with more eyes on kids when they go back to school. History has shown us that. So we at the CASA program want to be prepared for that.”
CASA Volunteer Julie Davey agreed and said they’re expecting the spike due to everyone now staying home.
"We don’t have the exposure to the first reporters that we normally have where a doctor or a teacher might see abuse in child and report that as a mandatory reporter.”
It’s why Davey and many more eyes are needed to watch out for the crimes that can go unseen.
“I think now more than ever we need eyes on kids, we all need to be mandated reporters and we’re all responsible for Pima county’s children," said McBride.
Training to become a CASA volunteer is now all online. The program is about 30 hours’ worth of work and typically takes 6 weeks to finish.
Find more information HERE.