According to the RCMP, domestic violence cases in St. Albert went up 64 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
St. Albert detachment commander Insp. Pam Robinson said that while that is a large jump, it may have to do with the expanded definition that the RCMP created for domestic violence and more social support and awareness in the community.
“There could be a number of reasons that could have affected that,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that the detachment now may classify any offence that involves intimate partners as domestic violence. She said that this expanded focus will help the RCMP expand their lens on domestic violence issues.
“Offences surrounding domestic violence aren’t black and white,” Robinson said
Domestic violence not only involves intimate partner physical violence, but it involves financial, emotional and psychological aspects.
Robinson said that the RCMP has expanded how they look at any calls they get involving intimate partners. If they receive a noise complaint involving a couple who are shouting at each other, the RCMP will ask more questions to determine whether the situation classifies as domestic violence.
“We ask more questions and we do more of an investigation,” Robinson said.
The detachment commander also said that society’s perspective on domestic violence is shifting and that more people may be reporting incidents.
Robinson said that with the increased awareness around domestic violence there has also been an increase in social support to survivors.
“There is more of a cultural awareness,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that community programs have always been in place but more people may be aware of them and are beginning to access them.
Although many factors may be contributing to the sharp rise in the domestic violence rates, right now Robinson can’t rule out an increase overall in domestic violence incidents in the city.
The St. Albert RCMP has a member of the detachment dedicated to dealing with cases of domestic violence. The K-division policy has changed in the way the provincial RCMP investigate domestic violence to help identify contributing factors and root causes to the reported issues.
“It’s working with the offender and the victim throughout the investigating process, whether that be court or probation,” Robinson said.
The RCMP Crime Reduction Unit also follows up with high risk offenders to ensure they are abiding by the conditions of their recognizance.
The detachment commander said that domestic violence often goes on for months or years without being reported but once the victim is ready to deal with it, the community has many support programs in place.
The RCMP helps provide safety planning to victims who are leaving an unsafe situation and they also connect them with Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) which helps connect them with other social supports.
Robinson said that the business community also helps support victims of domestic violence by providing those fleeing dangerous situations with safe places to stay.
Anyone who is in a domestic violence situation can call the St. Albert RCMP (780-458-4300) or St. Albert Victims Services (780-458-4353) for support.