SHOCK new figures reveal Hartlepool police are called to an average of six incidents of domestic violence a day and the number could rocket further in the build up to the festive period.
In the six-month period to September there were 1,133 domestic-related incidents recorded in town, with 342 crimes committed.
Worried bosses at Harbour Hartlepool Refuge say it could rise even further in the run up to Christmas and New Year.
While the number of overall incidents is decreasing year-on year, police and council chiefs say tackling domestic abuse remains an “extremely high priority” in Hartlepool.
Danielle Chadwick, service manager at Harbour in Hartlepool, said: “The figures for Hartlepool remain high and are far too high than everybody would like them to be.
“We continue to work with the police in order to reduce the levels of domestic violence and abuse as much as possible.
“But we do find there is more contact with our service in the run-up to Christmas due to the financial pressures of the season.
“It can then quieten down around Christmas itself because domestic abuse victims often feel the pressure to remain with their partners for the sake of their children, but then we see another spike at New Year.
“Suffering domestic abuse can be a very frightening and confusing and we urge anyone who is affected by abuse to contact us and not to suffer in silence.”
In 2011-12, there was 2,567 domestic related incidents and 810 crimes. Those figures dropped to 2,261 incidents and 784 crimes in 2012-13 and for the six-month period between April and September this year there has been 1,133 incidents and 342 crimes.
Crimes include violence against the person, sexual offences, burglary, theft and handling stolen goods, criminal damage and drug offences.
Chief Inspector Steve Jermy, of Cleveland Police, said: “Reducing domestic violence and protecting vulnerable victims is an extremely high priority for Cleveland Police.
“We will take positive action with regards to all reports and continue to work with our partners to provide support for victims and their children.
“Abuse of this nature ruins lives and has long-lasting consequences.
“We are determined to bring perpetrators to justice.”
The figures were revealed at a meeting of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, which brings together crime and council officials.
Committee members discussed the Domestic Violence Action Plan, which provides an overview of progress made over the last 18 months.
Officials say most of the actions are on target and the number of high risk domestic violence cases that have been referred to the Hartlepool Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) have also reduced although repeat victim rates remain fairly static.
Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “Work undertaken against the action plan is progressing well, and the results in terms of the reduction in domestic violence and abuse incidents, together with the take up of services suggests that the partnerships strategy for breaking the cycle of domestic violence and abuse in Hartlepool is achieving what it set out to do.
“However domestic-related crime in Hartlepool continues to be a problem with Hartlepool continuing to experience higher than average domestic related crime rates across the Cleveland area.”
The Safer Hartlepool Partnership Domestic Violence Strategy 2012-2015, first published in 2012, outlines the partnership’s approach to breaking the cycle of domestic violence in Hartlepool.
It sets out the partnership’s four key objectives which include prevention and early intervention, provision of services, partnership working and risk reduction for victims.
Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said it was important the domestic violence strategy includes all minority groups in society.
In a bid to improve partnership working since 2012 domestic violence services have been commissioned by Hartlepool Borough Council on a corporate basis and the services are currently delivered by Harbour.
The commissioned service currently includes community outreach service, support refuge accommodation, counselling service and joint police and Harbour visits to repeat victims.
From 2014-15 onwards the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) will have a responsibility for commissioning victims’ services.
STAFF at a harbour of refuge for women have called on people not to be a bystander and shop those responsible for domestic violence.
National Domestic Abuse Week takes place from Monday, November 25, and staff from Harbour Hartlepool Refuge will have a stand in the central square at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
The ‘Bystander Campaign’ encourages anyone who knows a friend or a relative who is suffering from domestic violence to seek help on their behalf.
Danielle Chadwick, service manager at Harbour in Hartlepool, said: “We have done similar campaigns around domestic violence, but it is obviously a sensitive subject and people obviously don’t always feel comfortable coming forward in public places.
“Therefore we have taken a different approach this year with the Bystander Campaign.”
Staff will also soon be launching its annual Gift Tree where people can donate gifts to families staying at the refuge.
Harbour Hartlepool Refuge has six self contained units, as well as a room to accommodate emergency overnight stays.
The refuge can be accessed 24 hours a day, and staff provide support and guidance to women and their children.
The Safer Hartlepool Partnership’s Domestic Violence Action Plan showed the effectiveness of the male perpetrator programme with 85 per cent of participants not going on to re-offend and victims reporting a reduction in incidents of violence and controlling behaviour.
But the issue of the high number of referrals, 116, which the refuge is unable to accommodate due to lack of space and the linked reduction in clients moving on in a planned way is a cause for concern say officials.
Discussions have taken place with Housing Hartlepool on the provision of extra accommodation units for refuge.
Meanwhile, in terms of prevention and early intervention Harbour have delivered a series of Safe Relationships Programme to 1,550 young people in an aim to raise awareness of domestic violence and abuse within teen relationships.
For help or information about the services run by Harbour Women’s Refuge call (01429) 277508 (24 hours) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org