During this time, with all of us at home sheltering in place, there’s been talk about whether domestic violence is on the increase. It’s definitely something I was worried about, that those in abusive relationships may be suffering even more, with their options for getting away from the home reduced.
This is an issue we take very seriously — that’s not just lip service. Our domestic violence unit looks into every call that comes in to police which could be a sign of intimate partner violence, even if it’s just a loud argument that the neighbours overhear. This allows us to keep track of where known problem relationships might be in the cycle of violence. Is the “honeymoon phase” moving into the “tension building” phase? There’s a great chart that explains this cycle on our website.
Before I get into the numbers, I want to offer a caveat: I fully recognize that not all intimate partner violence is reported to the police. Perhaps not even the majority of this violence.
However, there is good news. There has been no increase in the number of intimate partner violence files being investigated by DPD, either in March or April. We had 10 investigations in March and 14 in April, which is statistically average for us compared to our three-year trend.
These investigations typically lead to police recommending a charge of assault, or sometimes uttering threats and mischief. These are just the new files that came into the DPD for investigation however; our domestic violence team is monitoring dozens of files on a daily bases and assessing the potential risk to all involved.
The domestic violence category does not include reports of familial violence, such as that between children and parents or grandparents, or between siblings. Fortunately, we are not seeing increases there either.
I also wondered whether there was some indication that COVID-19 was an additional element at play. As it turns out, about 13 per cent of calls flagged as COVID-19 related were domestic, intimate partner or family violence calls, but the vast majority of those were verbal only and did not lead to criminal investigations.
Chronic offenders continue to be the most problematic aspect of our domestic or intimate partner violence files. That’s one of the reasons why we have a co-ordinated multi-agency response to this issue. Together, our officers and these agencies keep track of the couples and their trends. They have monthly meetings that include Probation and the Ministry of Children and Families. Deltassist is also involved. It’s not just the police who are following up with offenders and the victims.
Anecdotally, we are hearing that the pandemic has meant a slower pace for some, and has taken a bit of the pressure off some families. But I’m aware that at any time that could change, and this won’t be true for all families. So, our domestic violence unit continually reaches out to ensure that when someone is ready to leave, they know that supports and help will be there.
It’s fair to say the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an extra strain on the family structure and relationships. We are living in unprecedented times with family incomes reduced, schedules changing and freedom restricted. People may be more likely to experience conflict in their personal lives while dealing with this change.
I want to remind the community that there is help out there for those experiencing threats or violence. Don’t live in fear. Call us.
If someone is in danger or a crime is in progress, call 911. Otherwise, contact our non-emergency line at 604-946-4411 or go to deltapolice.ca/victim for more information on domestic violence. The information is also available in Punjabi and Cantonese. I urge you to share this with anyone who might need to see it.
Neil Dubord is the chief constable of the Delta Police Department.
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