SALEM — The story of a sibling squabble that led a Lafayette Street mom to ask police to arrest two of her five children struck a nerve yesterday.
"It drew a lot of attention," Lt. Conrad Prosniewski said.
The Salem News article appeared in newspapers from Washington to San Francisco and drew reporters from television news stations in Boston and New York. Reporters even camped outside mom Jeanmarie Lewis' home in an unsuccessful attempt to interview her.
Mostly, people wanted to know how often this sort of thing occurs, Prosniewski said.
"And it happens. It's not that uncommon," he said.
Kids get out of control, he explained, and overwhelmed parents call the police.
In this case, Lewis told police that she had run out to do some errands despite the fact that her five children had been fighting all day. She amended that statement later, according to police, saying that the home was peaceful when she left.
About the 911 tape, Prosniewski said, "She's not that excited. And you couldn't hear the kids."
But when officers reached her home, they asked what Lewis expected them to do about the problem. They recorded her answer as, "I want them both out of here — arrest them both." She referred to a 15-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, adding, "I can't take this anymore."
Police did summons the young man on charges of punching his 8-year-old sister in the arm. They also alerted the state Department of Children and Families to the difficulties in the home.
"Hopefully, there will be some kind of program out there that will help the family," Prosniewski said.
He praised the handling of the case, noting that Patrolmen Dana Mazola and Ryan Davis are both "seasoned guys. I know them both. They've had a lot of experience dealing with these situations."
Yvonne Vissing, the director of the center of child studies at Salem State University, observed that women in Lewis' position probably do not have many options when facing discord in the home.
The fathers of her children do not seem to be in the picture, according to police.
"She's got no backup," Vissing said. "She's probably feeling really overwhelmed."
While she cautions against finding fault with single mothers in general, she notes that it's common for overstressed parents to reach out to doctors and police.
"It's unfortunate it got to this point," she said.
Psychologist Samuel Migdole of the Migdole Psychological Center at the Cummings Center in Beverly noted from his own experience that so-called broken homes can result in "a very difficult situation for families. ... There's no question that if you've got two parents in a home, it may be easier to keep control. "
Both Vissing and Migdole agree that fights among siblings are not unusual.
"It's up to the parents to show them that's not the way to do it," Migdole said.
Trained to deal with domestic difficulties, police have the ability "to calm things down," Migdole said. "People see the police as helpers in a lot of ways. ... On the other hand, they have to make sure everybody is safe."
Migdole cited social services agencies in offering advice for parents.
"When things in a family are not going well ... don't be afraid to ask for help," he said.