The Whitehall Division of Police will continue its A Safer Whitehall program at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 at New Life Church, 441 S. Yearling Road.

Police Chief Mike Crispen organized the first town-hall meeting in June 2017, inviting the public to discuss ways to improve safety in Whitehall.

Several additional meetings have been held, usually about three months apart, each focused on a specific topic -- though those who attend are invited to ask about any issues.

The meeting will focus on domestic violence, because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Crispen said.

A survivor of domestic violence will share her story during the gathering, he said.

Whitehall City Attorney Michael Bivens said he is pleased the town-hall meeting will bring further attention to a cause he championed when he became city attorney in 2015.

"I set a mandate when I became city attorney to empower victims (of domestic violence) and prosecute cases," Bivens said.

Since 2015, the number of domestic-violence cases originating in Whitehall and prosecuted in the Franklin County municipal or common pleas courts has increased each year, Bivens said.

It is a product, Bivens said, not of a greater frequency of incidents but an increase in the number of cases prosecuted.

Domestic violence cases cannot be heard in mayor's court.

In 2015, 181 Whitehall cases were prosecuted in Franklin County courts.

In 2016, the number of domestic-violence cases increased to 194.

The number leaped to 284 last year, and through Oct. 10 this year, 285 cases have been or are being prosecuted, Bivens said.

Those numbers do not include incidents in which charges are dismissed or never were filed, Bivens said.

It is difficult to accurately determine how many cases go unreported, but the National Coalition of Domestic Violence has estimated the number as high as 70 percent, Bivens said.

To help maximize prosecution in Whitehall, the city has a victims services coordinator.

Lorena A. Lacey keeps a cellphone by her side 24 hours a day, ready to help victims become survivors.

"I approach my job from a theory of empowerment ... When someone has the courage (to report), I am there to help," Lacey said.

That help comes in several forms, she said.

"It can be about making victims aware of the situation they are in," Lacey said. "Domestic violence comes in many forms and (isn't exclusive) to romantic relationships."

Lacey also helps victims understand the court process.

"There are multiple hearings (and) a process to obtain protection orders ... I help them to know what to expect each step of the way," she said.

Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence is encouraged to call the Whitehall City Attorney's Office at 614-237-9802.