Sgt. Jim Glena speaks with media Wednesday morning.
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Domestic violence rates in the city have more than doubled in the past eight years.
Last year 672 people were charged in more than 2,300 cases of domestic violence.
It’s a staggering number that has the Thunder Bay Police Service concerned to the point that on Wednesday the force announced a new six-member Domestic Violence Unit to handle the cases.
“We’re way above the national average,” chief J.P. Levesque said.
Along with social concerns, the amount of domestic violence cases has depleted police resources as officers need to spend up to six hours on each incident if charges are laid.
Now uniform officers can send the cases to the two-person specially trained teams if charges result from a domestic violence call.
It will improve everything from making sure reports are ready for Crown attorneys to helping victims through the court process.
“The big thing is spending time with the victim and finding the community agencies to help them and that’s really important,” Sgt. Jim Glena, who’s running the unit, said.
Glena said that of the 672 people charged last year, 563 males and 109 females, around 350 had been charged with domestic violence before. It’s also common for a person to be charged with multiple offences during a domestic violence call.
“Sometimes two or three charges,” Glena said.
The new unit means community agencies like Faye Peterson Transition House will now have officers to contact, which may help more victims of domestic violence come forward. Director Debbie Zweep having police experts in the field trained in subjects like risk assessment will go a long way.
“It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve hear in a while,” she said of the unit. “You’re going to have this expertise on the subject on what’s going on in the relationship that we haven’t seen before.”
Zweep said along with a huge increase in the amount of domestic violence cases, the severity of violence is on the rise too. Abuse, such as strangulation, is becoming much more common in domestic cases.
“It’s not that we didn’t see them before but we didn’t see them in this numbers,” she said.
And police numbers don’t represent all of the incidences as a large number of people who go to Faye Peterson Transition House don’t report to police. Zweep said the domestic violence unit might change that as well. Officers in plain clothes with familiarity about the subject will help.
“They’re going to know what questions to ask and how to make people feel comfortable and safe,” she said.
The unit is being formed out of the now defunct Focused Enforcement Team. Levesque said no new money was required.
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