October 8th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 39
A hard line on domestic violence
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
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Pass Herald Reporter
At a council meeting in July, the RCMP revealed data on criminal code offences in the Crowsnest Pass, which showed that personal crimes increased 30 per cent between 2006 and 2013.
These offences include aggravated assault, sexual assault, threats and robbery.
At a governance and priorities meeting on Sept. 9, Crowsnest Pass detachment commander Kevin McKenna explained that one of the reasons reports of these incidents have increased slightly has been a gradual change in the way police are treating domestic disputes.
“You don’t have to have a physical confrontation or an assault to have it called domestic abuse,” said McKenna. “If the person is being abused at home, physically or financially, we now score that as domestic assault.”
According to law enforcement personnel and academics, the Canadian government and the province of Alberta have changed their reporting policies in response to domestic violence.
The change in policy is designed to prevent physical abuse as a relative who is verbally abusive might one day become physically abusive, said McKenna who added that all crimes are entered into a countrywide database.
“We’re trying to identify at an early stage because a lot of these people are transient,” he said. “We try to score them on the system if they move the statistics will move with them.”
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Sharon Franks said the crime statistics in the Pass reflects a province wide change in the response to domestic violence where arguments and threats are now taken more seriously.
Franks said domestic violence has been identified as a serious problem in Canada but for police, the crux of the matter is determining whether the conflict is a domestic issue.
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“What you have to determine is the two people are involved in some sort of relationship,” said Franks. “Whether it be a family dynamic, a husband and wife or even a previous relationship could fall under this.”
Each province regulates its own domestic violence policy but the criminal code is Canada wide, said Franks.
It used to be that the RCMP didn’t have to lay charges with every incident but now the RCMP will lay charges when there’s any evidence related to domestic assaults.
“The legislation is changing and it’s making it, in my view, much better for victims of domestic assault,” said Franks.
According to a 2012 study by Lana Wells, the Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence at the University of Calgary, Alberta has the fifth highest rate of police reported intimate partner violence and the second highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in Canada.
She estimated that domestic violence has been costing Albertans over $600 million in basic health and non-health supports from 2007 to 2012.
Wells is the creator of SHIFT, which has the lofty goal of ending domestic violence in Alberta through education and working with law enforcement.
Over the past two decades, Alberta has introduced several violence protection measures. Two pieces of legislation include, the Protection Against Family Violence Act (PAFVA) and the Children, Youth, and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA), which have improved police and judicial responses to domestic violence, said Wells.
The legislation sends the messages that abuse will not be tolerated in Alberta. PAFVA improves victims’ access to protection orders in emergency situations and the CYFEA addresses children’s exposure to domestic violence, she said.
Thankfully, her report states that incidents have been declining over the past decade.
Crime statistics obtained by the Pass Herald reveal that there were 40 reported assaults and 12 reported instances of uttering threats from the beginning of the year to Aug. 12.
October 8th ~ Vol. 84 No. 39
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