New unit to combat domestic violence

Michelle Novakowski, executive director of the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, says Kelowna
Michelle Novakowski, executive director of the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, says Kelowna's new domestic violence unit will provide increased safety for victims and their families.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

Kelowna RCMP, the provincial government and local frontline workers are teaming up to assist victims of domestic violence.

A new domestic violence unit has been set up to deal with a problem that has been prevalent in the region in recent years.

A 2012 Statistics Canada report indicated Kelowna ranked third nation-wide for incidents of domestic violence.

"We do see a high number of very high-risk files," said Michelle Novakowski, executive director of the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society.

"It could be that we're getting higher levels of reporting, or it could be that we have more for some reason.

"It's really hard to say by just looking at numbers, what that's related to."

Under the new unit, two Mounties will work alongside representatives from the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society and the Ministry of Children and Family Services.

Kelowna RCMP Superintendent Nick Romanchuk said the team will work together in the same office, with the goal of keeping victims safe and holding offenders accountable.

"We expect the new unit will also be better able to connect victims immediately to needed resources and get them quickly to safety," said Romanchuk.

Novakowski estimated the Kelowna RCMP detachment receives 1,000 to 1,500 domestic violence calls every year.

Previously, one officer was responsible for dealing with all domestic violence issues. The additional domestic violence officer, being added to this unit, will help lighten that load.

"You could have the whole detachment working on the number of calls (received)," said Novakowski.

"We'll just be working with the very highest risk ones."

Romanchuk said it's the detachment's goal to reduce repeat victimization for domestic violence by five per cent this year.

"For those who aren't in this business, it may not sound like a lot. But this could be a tough goal to meet," said Romanchuk.

"When we do outreach work like this, awareness goes up, and so often the reporting goes up as well."

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said Kelowna's domestic violence unit is the fifth to open in the province.

"You can imagine, when there's been a domestic violence situation, how traumatizing it is for the family and how much they need help," said Anton.

"This is the lifeline and the help that they need to connect them to resources and to safety in the community."

She added the province has taken "significant action on domestic violence," including $1 million in civil forfeiture proceeds that have gone to help develop or enhance domestic violence units in B.C., as well as the recent launch of a three-year, $5.5 million provincial domestic violence plan.

Twitter: @PatersonWade


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