Airdrie RCMP to add new domestic violence officer
Airdrie will have a new RCMP officer in the domestic violence unit this spring.
“Domestic violence has been identified as a priority from the policing committee and City officials and we currently only have one position (in the unit) that has evolved over time,” said Airdrie RCMP Insp. Tony Hamori.
He said the new officer will concentrate on offender management, which includes curfew checks and ensuring offenders are meeting the conditions placed on them.
“It has become more about quality control and we want to bring that back to investigation,” Hamori added.
The new position was approved by the City of Airdrie last fall at a cost of $80,000. The price includes the officer’s wages, support staff, vehicles and required equipment. The City approved a second general uniformed officer at the same time and cost.
The district domestic violence coordinator for all of southern Alberta is housed in Airdrie but is completely separate from the Airdrie RCMP, Hamori added.
“It is important that we have a new officer specialized to domestic violence because our other officers are dealing with everything from a traffic complaint to a major incident and they can’t focus on one type of file,” he said.
Hamori said the need for another officer is apparent because of an increase in reported domestic violence in Airdrie.
In 2009, Airdrie RCMP dealt with 377 cases of domestic violence with criminal allegations. In 2010, with the change of the domestic violence policy to include verbal arguments, custody disputes and division of property, RCMP dealt with 562 cases. In 2011, the number increased to 579.
“The majority of the increase is matching growth in the City,” said Hamori.
“Domestic violence is a sign of the times. The economic times we are in provide increased pressures and causes strains on families and break ups. We just have to look at the divorce statistics to see that. Disputes go along with that. Domestic violence is volatile and unpredictable and needs to be carefully monitored but police can’t do it alone. We need to work with other services.”
He said although police should be called in emergency situations, there are many other resources for a person who knows someone who is at risk and in an abusive relationship.
The Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society (ADVAS) is one of those resources. ADVAS works very closely with Const. Francine Hennelly, currently Airdrie RCMP’s only domestic violence officer.
“Ninety per cent of our work load is domestic violence and we work very closely with the domestic violence unit,” said Lori Rehill, executive director of ADVAS.
“The fact that we would have two officers to work with now is such a benefit for us. We couldn’t be as effective as we are without the domestic violence unit. This will help us and the RCMP continue the wonderful work we are doing.”
She is grateful for the domestic violence unit, as many victims assistance programs do not have the luxury of such a partnership, she added.
ADVAS staff and volunteers liaise with the domestic violence unit to update each other on specific cases, train new volunteers and deal with court issues.
ADVAS also creates safety plans for victims of domestic violence; provides resources such as financial help, Community Links, addictions programs and men’s programs; teaches victims what to expect in court and keep them updated on the process; and promotes the prevention of re-victimization after an incident.
“Airdrie has a high rate of reported domestic violence,” said Rehill.
“It is due to a number of factors including the fact that RCMP can lay charges if there is sufficient evidence without the statement of the victim, the growth in the city, the economy, but most importantly, the fact that people know violence is wrong and will report it.”
She said a number of factors are helping to increase awareness about domestic violence such as programs in school that teach children about the dangers of bullying; the Rotary Club’s Tour de Airdrie, which raises money for victims of domestic violence; and the prevalence of resources in the community that can help.
“The community continues to be vigilant when they know there is violence effecting their neighbours or friends,” she said.
“There is better reporting and people are more aware and not shying away from reporting violence,” she said.
“What I do is review all files and conduct risk assessments and there is enough work that would warrant a second member in the unit. We work closely with Child and Family Services, Airdrie probation officers, Crown prosecutors and ADVAS and they all assist us in delivering better service to those in need.”
She said Airdrie is the only RCMP detachment with its own domestic violence unit in southern Alberta and that shows how proactive the City has been in addressing the issue.
“The City is graciously funding this department in an effort to make Airdrie a safe and healthy community,” she said.
Alderman Glenda Alexander has been on the City’s police committee for three years and she said domestic violence has been a priority for council.
“That is one of the areas of concern that we have heard many many times and we are pleased there will be a new officer in that department,” she said.
“Domestic violence has been on the increase for quite some time and this is a step in the right direction. We have made such positive strides in policing and this is just the next step.”
Hamori said it is not known exactly when the new domestic violence officer will start. The starting date will depend on if the new officer needs to be relocated from another community.