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‘Crisis point’: Lake Illawarra police spend half their time on domestic violence

On average, Lake Illawarra police officers respond to 12 domestic violence (DV) incidents every day.

It’s a figure that comes as no surprise to Sally Stevenson from the Warilla-based Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, who says DV has become a “public health crisis”.

While DV rates across the Illawarra are mostly in line with the state average, Ms Stevenson said there were some areas where the violence was above the norm.

Up to five women a day are currently seeking help from the centre.

They’re either in crisis, trying to get health and wellbeing support, or require legal or financial assistance following a DV situation.

I think we are absolutely at crisis point, this is a public health crisis and it really demands a whole of community, public response,” she said.

It’s absolutely endemic, not just here in the Illawarra but across Australia because we know a women is murdered nearly every five to six days now, so the situation is not getting better.

Ms Stevenson said that statistic was just the tip of the iceberg.

It doesn’t reflect all the physical injury, all the non-reported injury, all the financial, emotional, mental and sexual abuse,” she said.

Lake Illawarra Police District Commander Detective Superintendent Dean Smith said DV accounted for a “high proportion” of his officers’ workload.

About 50 per cent of their time is spent dealing with DV-related incidents.

Since the beginning of April, Lake Illawarra police officers have door-knocked homes of known DV perpetrators – to hold them accountable for their actions and to help victims break the cycle.

More than 180 apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO) compliance checks were carried out during the recent operation, while in excess of 300 proactive DV perpetrator-related interventions were made across the Illawarra.

It is always important that both offenders and victims know that the police could knock on their door at any time, to hold perpetrators to account but also to support victims,” Supt Smith said.

We’re always disappointed when offences continually happen [but] we’re not shocked by it at all.

”We know the breadth of the problem of domestic violence and, look, we don’t shy away from our responsibility either.

“Victims and offenders both get shocked when we knock on the door unexpectedly, but that’s a good thing.”

Six people were charged during the Lake Illawarra blitz – for DV-related crimes that included breaching orders, assaults, intimation and telecommunication offences.

The family and domestic violence crackdown was part of a wider police operation, dubbed Making Families Safer, which also saw more than 160 ADVO compliance checks conducted in the Wollongong Police District.

 

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