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SAPD reports close to 1,000 child custody related calls every month


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The child custody issues divorced parents face usually range from dropping the kids off late to refusing access to the kids for months at a time.

Battles over visitation violations are often fought in civil court, but in Texas, if it's elevated to a child custody interference offense, it's a crime.

"For her entire life, we've had a very close relationship," said mom, Ericka Carrillo.

Her daughter is 17 now and a lot has changed.

Carrillo said her daughter went to visit her dad for spring break in 2020 and never returned.

"I didn't know where she was," Carrillo said. "He wouldn't tell me and then at that point they changed phone numbers."

Her attempts to reunite with her daughter were unsuccessful, so she decided to call the Converse Police Department.

She called them out many times and had a lot of questions about her daughter's location, safety and well-being.

Converse Police told News 4 what they told Carrillo, which is that they have located her daughter, that she's living with her dad and also that it's where she wants to be.

"To just have that relationship severed like this, it's very hard," Carrillo said.

Cases like these can be escalated to the District Attorney's Office for review and potential prosecution, but you will need a criminal offense report written up by law enforcement.

"At a minimum you should be writing a report to document that, so let's say we don't make an arrest today but at least the District Attorney's Office and the follow up unit detective will have enough information to proceed down that road if they need to file a criminal case," said Bexar County Sheriff, Javier Salazar.

Salazar has been working with his deputies over the last couple years to be sure they're aware of state statute 25.03 that makes child custody interference a state jail felony.

"We've done it through roll call, just reminding them that this is an offense, it's not a civil matter necessarily," Salazar said.

The Trouble Shooters requested the number of visitation violations and child custody interference incidents during the last 3 years.

Most months the San Antonio Police Department averages about a thousand calls for visitation violations each month, but the number of child custody interference incidents is usually between 5 and 10.

Conversely, BCSO has a greater number of child custody interference incidents than visitation violations each month, but Salazar said those numbers may be misleading.

"What was explained to me is that, that may be the way it's titled when the deputy writes up the case, so although it may be initially typed in as child custody, it turns out to be the more minor of the 2," Salazar said.

San Antonio Police refused to do an interview, but did send this statement:

"Every year, SAPD receives calls for service for visitation violations. Visitation violation calls are not the same as Interference with Child Custody offenses. A majority of these calls do not meet the elements of the offense for a charge of Interference with Child Custody and therefore, are not criminal in nature. Each case has its own set of unique circumstances and cases which meet the elements of the offense are presented to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

*A visitation violation does not necessarily equal an alleged offense of interference with child custody was committed.

*Every case in which an individual alleges child custody interference has its own particular set of facts, allegations and circumstances regarding that incident.

*Without knowing the allegations of every single call out that you refer to, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what each officer did in each case.

*However, we can provide a general outline of what an officer responding to a child custody interference can do:

*When an officer is dispatched to a child custody interference call, in order for the officer to gather enough probable cause for the offense of interference of child custody (Texas Penal Code 25.03), there must be a court order document that supports the non-custodial parent not have possession of that child.

*There are cases when officers make a location for a report of non-compliance of child exchange, also known as a Visitation Violation.

*For example: A parent is supposed to drop off a child at 5:00, but does not drop off the child until 8:15 that day.

*In this specific example, the officer provides an incident number to the complainant for documentation purposes.

During a visitation violation call, officers must maintain the peace. Additionally, if the parent expresses concerns for the child's well being, an officer will attempt to make contact with the other parent and the child to ensure the child is safe. Furthermore, officers cannot make entry into a home to forcibly remove a child without any type of warrant, as this would be a violation to their civil liberties."

State Senator Jose Menendez (District 26) worries some officers aren't enforcing the law.

This session he has authored Senate Bill 2011, which is an amendment to the existing statute 25.03, to clarify the law with the hope of greater compliance.

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