In its first year of operation, Cambridgeshire police’s dedicated domestic violence unit has made more than 1,500 arrests. CATHERINE BELL spoke to Detective Inspector Alan Page about the unit’s progress.
“IT is not until you start scratching the surface that you understand what you are dealing with.”
Detective Inspector Alan Page is reflecting on an increase in the number domestic violence crimes recorded over the last year in Cambridgeshire: “Normally, as a detective, the last thing I want to see is an increase in crime. But whether it’s drugs, handling stolen goods or domestic violence, you don’t know what you have got until you start looking.”
County-wide, the number of crimes has risen 12.9 per cent – from 2,434 incidents to 2,749.
In Huntingdonshire, the rise has been more significant. Cases reported stand at 486, an increase of 18.5 per cent on the previous year’s figure of 410.
The increase could in part be down to the launch of the force’s first Domestic Abuse Investigations and Safeguarding Unit (DAISU) in April last year. The unit, working from Thorpe Wood and Parkside police stations in Peterborough and Cambridge, investigates all domestic abuse crimes, meaning victims deal with specially-trained officers. Since its launch, officers have arrested 1,555 people – including more than 200 women.
DI Page added: “By providing a dedicated unit to domestic abuse and using specially-trained officers we have seen a rise in reports. Although any rise in crime is obviously a concern, I believe it is not until you start tackling the issue of domestic violence and offering the specialist advice and support that you really start to get an understanding of the extent of the problem.”
Last month, 57 per cent of crimes reported resulted in police action, ranging from cautions to a formal charge.
DI Page said: “For some people, its sufficient they get a police caution, it nips it in the bud, but for others it might be court, prison or restraining orders: anything to put distance between offenders and victims.”
He added: “We are in the murder prevention business.
“Early intervention can often stop the violence and safeguard the victim. Interventions such as restraining orders can be set by the court to offer victims long-term protection. Tackling the domestic violence incident today can well prevent the domestic violence murder of tomorrow.”
Statistics show that most victims have experienced 35 incidents of abuse or violence before they make the first call to police.
“It’s important for us to remember that it might have taken a lot for them to pick up the phone and call for help,” DI Page said. He explained that the way officers deal with incidents at the scene has also changed: “It’s all about taking positive action and not relying on the victim to say ‘yes, I want to make a complaint’.
“What we are saying to our officers is, if you think a crime has been committed, arrest the offender and remove them from the scene.”
This proactive approach empowers victims, he said.
He encouraged victims who might be suffering in silence to think about where they want to be in the future.
“Reflect on where you want to be in one or two year’s time,” he said. “Is it going to get worse? It might be hard now but if you don’t do something the abuse is going to continue.”
He continued: “I can think of nothing worse than being trapped in a relationship where you are abused physically or mentally and we have found that by providing a specialist unit, victims have felt empowered to come forward and report the abuse against them. “Our specialist officers are also trained to spot the signs of abuse so by dealing with a crime from the initial stages we can work with the victims and partner agencies to provide them with the best support and advice.”
What is domestic abuse?
The new government definition of domestic abuse is: “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
Useful contact numbers
Cambridgeshire Constabulary 101
National Domestic Violence Hotline 0808 2000 247
Women’s Aid and Refuge 0808 2000 247
Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327
Everyman Project 0207 263 8884