More resources to tackle family violence

POLICE will soon have more resources to deal with family violence in Sale.

Currently, Acting Senior Sergeant Eamon Leahy leads the family violence unit, with two constables in Sale and two in Bairnsdale.

The unit is kept busy dealing with regular offenders, as well as high-risk reports.

Soon, more support in the form of a dedicated detective senior sergeant, detective sergeant, two detective senior constables, police lawyer, analyst and victim support, as well as a new vehicle, will allow more cases to be handled across Division Six.

Acting Senior Sergeant Leahy said it would take a strong community effort, and he was proud of the work the support agencies did to support police.

“Wearing this uniform, I’m in the response part, but the reason I got involved in the prevention side is I recognised we can’t police our way out of it — we really do need to catch people before police get involved,” he said.

“There’s a much greater understanding in the community of what family violence is and what it looks like.”

The number of reports to police has fallen slightly, but remains high, while the number of support agencies accessed has increased.

“For the last six years, numbers of incidents reported to police have been trending up, and we’ve always measured our success as an increase in reporting (as people are comfortable enough to come forward),” Acting Senior Sergeant Leahy said.

“… what we’re finding is that across the state, it’s begun to plateau and we’re now starting to come back down, so the jury’s still out as to why that is, it’ll be a combination of factors, and one of those will be people have a greater understanding of what services are out there,” he said.

“The number of people accessing services is actually increasing, but the number of people seeking police assistance is reducing, and that’s really promising — it’s by no means irrefutable evidence that we’re winning … but certainly that prevention space, that awareness, and that education seem to be sinking in.”

For the police, the two priorities are recidivists and high-risk offenders, though Acting Senior Sergeant Leahy cautions there’s often a big difference between the two.

“We always say recidivism is three reports to police in six months, but that could be three reports coming from a neighbour who heard yelling,” he explained.”

“There might be a neighbour who’s particularly attuned to what domestic violence is and they actually make those reports — which is what we want — but then the risk might not actually be that high.

“We might just be talking about a family conflict, and something that can be relatively easily fixed.

“There might not be any children in the house, and we might be talking about two adults where a bit of conflict resolution might not go astray,” he said.

“But then I might get one report come over that’s really high risk.

“For us, recidivism is less important than the risk on each individual case.

“We do a lot of work around those high risk ones, and on the face of it, the numbers are slightly down, but then, are they down proportionately because everything’s down a bit?

“There’s not enough research being done yet.”