Evidence why Port Alberni needs a police officer working specifically on domestic violence relationship calls can be found along Stamp Avenue.
There are 157 purple ribbons strung along the sidewalk along the corridor, each representing a reported case of domestic violence in Port Alberni. “There would be 75 more if we added in the number that were charged,” ACAWS official Joanne Silver said. “Those numbers are high for a population (like) this.”
RCMP Inspector Mac Richards announced a dedicated violence officer would be in place in 2014. The position is new but an officer will be found to fill it through internal competition, he said.
According to Richards, the Alberni Valley has seen a reduction in some crimes, such as mischief. But violence in relationships continues to be a concern, he said.
Police have dealt with 73 calls having to do with domestic violence so far this year, Richards’ report noted. The number of calls spiked in June at 14, and there were nine calls in October.
In five years the Alberni detachment has dealt with 674 domestic violence calls; 2008 showed the highest number of calls at 193. And the victims services unit took in 15 new clients—half of them for domestic violence issues.
The announcement couldn’t have come at a better time, Silver said.”We’re thrilled that there is going to be a dedicated officer dealing with healthy relationships.”
ACAWS is the medic in the trenches on the frontline of domestic violence in the Valley. They provide counselling services, drop-in and outreach for victims of domestic violence. And they operate sexual abuse services and a transition house as well.
Children are the most vulnerable victims in domestic violence. “Children who continually witness domestic violence often become perpetrators of violence themselves,” Silver said.
Domestic violence is a common call for officers. And things can escalate quickly so it can be an officer’s most dangerous call, RCMP Cpl. Jen Allan said.
Another element is when the tables are turned on officers. “When we arrest the offender the victim will often switch sides and attack the police officer.”
Domestic violence crosses all gender, sexual orientation and economic boundaries, Allan said.
There are no easy answers to why domestic violence calls have remained steady in the Valley over the years.
No community is immune from the spectre of it, Allan said. Officers see a spike in the number of calls during the holidays. Finances are usually a variable in the mix. Substance abuse and mental health issues are also factors, Allan said.