ACT News

ACT police respond to thousands of family violence calls a year

ACT police have attended an average of almost seven family violence-related incidents a day in Canberra in the past year.

More than 1200 incidents have already been reported to ACT Policing this year alone and 2489 cases in the past 12 months – and Chief Police Officer Rudi Lammers​ says enough is enough.

Assistant Commissioner Lammers, who is also a White Ribbon ambassador, said disturbances were the most prevalent domestic or family violence incidents logged in the capital, with 988 calls to police between July 2014 and June 2015.

"The types of disturbances would be something like couples fighting, parents fighting," he said.

"The neighbour might hear the disturbance, they might hear shouting ... and they call us.

"Cases of family violence we attend very, very quickly, because it's always quite volatile, so they need our help very, very quickly."

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The other main categories of reported family violence in the past 12 months included 493 welfare checks, 406 assaults and 128 calls about damage to property.

"Welfare checks – that usually means a person is unsure about the safety of another person; maybe they haven't seen the person for a few days," Assistant Commissioner Lammers said.

"Sometimes, it's even one of the children in a house who becomes frightened because maybe mum and dad have been fighting."

While family violence often constituted verbal or emotional abuse, assault or humiliation, less obvious acts included control over finances and damage to sentimental property.

Although this year's 1215 callouts represented a slight drop compared with the 1274 cases recorded in the previous six months (July to December 2014), Assistant Commissioner Lammers said it was important to avoid complacency

A newly released survey conducted by the Victorian Police Association has found family violence now takes up an estimated 70 per cent of a frontline officer's shift, including one instance where officers in Melbourne had to choose between one person armed with a baseball bat and another wielding an axe.  

"The [ACT] numbers have gone down slightly, which is encouraging, but across the different categories, they tend to fluctuate a little bit," Assistant Commissioner Lammers said.

"The senseless killings that occur every week in Australia – two people die at the hands of an intimate partner every single week somewhere in Australia – all indications are that will continue to increase unless we do something about it.

"It's not just about prosecution, it's not just about arrests and incarceration; it's about education, it's about making sure there are respectful relationships at a very young age."

Assistant Commissioner Lammers, who will host a White Ribbon fundraiser on Friday, said family violence call-outs were the most volatile and could have a significant impact on the officers involved, who saw people "at their absolute worst".

"We never know what we're going to confront once inside the front door. It could be a gun or a knife or a steel pipe or a broken bottle," he said.

"Quite often, these instances occur in the early hours of the morning, when emotions are high. Often there's alcohol or sometimes drugs involved. We have to be careful about our own safety, as well as the safety of people in the homes."

Assistant Commissioner Lammers urged Canberrans to speak up if they suspected family violence was occurring.

"Over the last couple of years, I've encouraged people to do that, to keep calling, even if they're not sure. We would rather attend only to find out there is no problem rather than wait until something more tragic happens."

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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