By Barb McKay
A dramatic rise in domestic violence in Kincardine and surrounding municipalities has South Bruce OPP sounding the alarm.
The detachment’s 2012 annual report indicates that there has been a 40 per cent increase in domestic disturbances in the region since 2009. It’s important to note, said South Bruce OPP detachment commander Insp. Scott Smith, those statistics only include incidents reported to police. In all likelihood, numbers are higher.
In 2009, 62 incidents were reported in Kincardine. Last year, that number climbed to 88. More alarmingly, in 2011 28 per cent of domestic disturbance incidents resulted in charges. In 2012, charges were laid in 35 per cent of cases.
“The numbers are high here and the levels of violence are high,” Smith said.
Smith said domestic violence is an area the detachment will be paying special attention to.
“There certainly seems to be trends,” he said. “In respect to domestic violence, we’ve seen an increase in the last four years and, unfortunately, I think it’s only going to get worse.”
In many cases of domestic violence there are common themes.
“Anybody would be right to say the economy will have an impact on the number of domestics,” Smith said.
As employment opportunities become increasingly scarce and financial situations become more difficult, anxiety levels rise and that causes some people to lash out, he noted. Alcohol can also play a factor.
But more than anything, Smith said, it comes down to social behaviour.
“Somewhere along the line we’ve lost respect,” he said. “We don’t respect ourselves and we don’t respect the rights of others to have opinions.”
In order to reduce the occurrences of domestic violence we need to break the cycle, he added.
“Part of it is education,” Smith said. “Right from a very young age. Those who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to mimic behaviours.”
At the same time, he stressed, women have to be educated about what is acceptable. In most cases, he said, women don’t report assaults after the first occurrence. Police are often not notified about domestic violence until it has happened several times or until a friend or neighbour takes notice and reports it.
Smith also contends that negative behaviours that are learned at home also translate into bullying in schools. He said it is time that community leaders to a stronger role in modeling positive behaviour and educating the public to turn the tables on domestic violence. Since taking over the role as detachment commander last year, Smith has met with ministers in the community to see how they can assist with education.
“They have considerable influence,” he said.
He has also met with Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey to strengthen the relationship between the women’s shelter and law enforcement.
“We’ll keep working on it and raise the profile.”
Along with domestic disturbances, overall violent crime rates have also risen in both Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss. In 2011, police responded to 76 incidents of violent crime in Kincardine and 35 in Huron-Kinloss. In 2012, those figures rose to 84 and 52 respectively.
This spring, the South Bruce OPP will be engaging the public to establish a safe community committee. Smith said the OPP will be looking for individuals who want to work to make Kincardine a safer community. He said police will play an advisory role but he is hoping that members of the community can come together to identify issues and develop solutions.
*Another area of concern to police is a sudden jump in 2012 in the number of suicides and attempted suicides in the detachment area. On average, Smith reported, the South Bruce OPP investigate five suicides and 48 attempted suicides annually. Last year, the highest incidents of attempted suicide were by individuals aged 50 years and older. The highest rate of suicides was by individuals between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.
“We had a particularly bad year and I hope it was just a blip on the radar, but it was a bad year,” he said.
“I think part of it, especially with the older population, is that they see members of their family and friends deal with terminal illness and they want no part of it.”
The economy can also play a role.
“We’re seeing it with 20 to 30-year-olds,” he said. “They have a post-secondary education and can’t find work.”
But that is only part of the picture, Smith noted.
“There are multiple factors; things going on in their lives.”
Addressing this situation can be a challenge, Smith acknowledges, but often there are signs if an individual is contemplating taking their life. Friends, family, as well as employers, need to stay attuned to the people in their lives and ask questions and offer support.
“It’s time for us to pay attention,” he said. “Ask questions and show people that you care.”