Too often the front line is the front room
Tackling domestic abuse should be a priority for everyone who lives and works in Essex. During July, Essex Police received over one hundred domestic abuse related emergency calls every single day, and is currently managing around 80 such incidents daily.
Statistics like this are shocking. A more detailed analysis of incidents is equally disturbing. Between April 1st 2013 and September 30th 2013, more than three quarters of all domestic offences where a crime was recorded involved actual violence against a person. There were 3627 such offences during that time period. That equates to 20 crimes of domestic violence every single day in our county. The front line has indeed become the front room.
Most tragically, over a recent period of just eight weeks, three women were killed in their homes.
We surely can’t accept this level of harm. And it’s clear to me that this is not just a challenge for police and social care – we must all play our part in helping to reduce and prevent the profound damage caused by domestic abuse.
I have identified domestic abuse as a top priority within the Essex Police and Crime Plan. I chair a newly constituted Essex Domestic Abuse Strategic Board, which has representation from across all of the key agencies that have a role to play in tackling domestic abuse – including the police, councils, probation, the prosecution authorities and health. This new Board oversees an ambitious programme of work, in supporting victims, tackling perpetrators, and most importantly, working to prevent domestic abuse from happening in the first place.
I am clear that whilst Essex Police has a crucial part to play, it cannot solve the problem of domestic abuse alone. As Police and Crime Commissioner, I sit on a number of partnership boards which have key roles to play in tackling domestic abuse – such as the Health and Wellbeing Board, the Essex Partnership Board and Safer Essex. I am encouraging work to ensure that there is a better sharing of information across agencies to ensure that those who are victims of domestic abuse, and those who are at risk, have support packages in place as early as possible to help keep them safe. Most of these victims are women, and many also have children. It’s key that we work together to ensure these children are kept safe and supported to live full and active lives.
We also need to recognise that some men are victims of domestic violence, and we must work together to ensure that support programmes are in place to help keep them safe too.
I believe that, as Police and Crime Commissioner, it is my responsibility to work on behalf of the people of Essex to tackle domestic abuse. I want to work across communities to create an environment where domestic abuse is not tolerated and where our children and young people grow up to recognise the value of healthy relationships.
I am delighted that our Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh has begun an extensive programme of work to develop Essex Police’s approach to combatting domestic abuse. The first phase of this work included a domestic abuse summit which brought together local, national and international experts and practitioners to identify strategies to combat these awful crimes. The Chief Constable is now working across the force and with partners to ensure that Essex Police delivers against the domestic abuse priorities set out within the Police and Crime Plan.
New Domestic Abuse Triage Teams have been introduced, with involvement from Essex Police and social care. These will develop into new multi-agency hubs in the coming months with partner representation across the county. A renewed focus on perpetrators has resulted in an increase in the number of high risk domestic abuse cases which are classified as “solved” from 52 per cent to almost 56 per cent. This is a welcome but small increase, and there is still much to do especially as the criminal justice processes and outcomes may offer little comfort to victims.
New relationships are also being built with the voluntary or ‘third’ sector where there is a depth of knowledge and skilled resource that has so much to offer to support victims and to advise the police. I have made new funding available to some of these groups to develop innovative approaches to encourage victims to seek support earlier and to increase the number of trained advisors to work with domestic abuse victims.
Research reveals that a person will have been a victim of domestic abuse thirty-five times before they have the courage to dial 999. We must all do our utmost to ensure that agencies are able to intervene earlier in the timeline of abuse, and that friends, neighbours and family members recognise the signs and know the steps they can take to protect their loved ones. We have a long journey ahead. But I am confident that together we can reduce the harm, and especially the most serious harm, that affects so many in our county.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex