A TOWN-WIDE campaign is encouraging victims of domestic violence to seek help – while also stopping people from reoffending.
It is two-and-a-half years since Respect Hartlepool was launched to target three major areas of crime: shoplifting, drink-fuelled violence and domestic abuse.
The Hartlepool Mail-backed initiative has been hailed a success by police chiefs and this week we are taking a look at each of the categories to see how officers have been tackling the most persistent criminals.
Since August 2010, a string of initiatives have been launched to tackle domestic abuse in Hartlepool with a focus on supporting victims.
Neighbourhood Operations Inspector Mal Suggitt, of Hartlepool Police, said: “Domestic violence is high on our agenda as nationally it has been seen that such incidents can end in harm, or even a murder.
“Anything we can do to stop things escalating, we are doing.”
Police officers, specially trained to deal with domestic incidents, have been working alongside Harbour Support Services, which offers support to victims and offenders, to visit homes after reports of abuse.
Victims and their attackers are then offered help to get to the root of the problem and to try and stop any reoffending.
Hartlepool also had its own dedicated domestic violence court to make sure those found to have carried out a crime are dealt with and their families are supported during the process.
In January 2011 there were around 55 incidents of abuse within homes a month, but that has now fallen to an average of under 50 – with just 30 recorded in October 2012.
Insp Suggitt also praised the Mail for running a series of stories about the help on offer.
He said: “Articles in the Mail over Christmas saw victims and perpetrators come forward.
“Something as simple as that gives people the confidence to come forward as there is so much help on offer and people can get all the support they need.
“It doesn’t just have to be about prosecutions. These are very complex matters and can involve the break-up of families so we are determined to keep improving the service to help those affected.”
Caren Barnfather, of Harbour Support Services, said Hartlepool is leading the way in combatting a complex problem.
She added: “The home visits are seen as quite a flagship initiative and they are having positive outcomes.
“However, people have to be held accountable for their actions, yet locking people up is not the only solution.
“There is a lot of abuse that is emotional. It may not be seen as a crime but the victim’s life is being turned to misery by it.
“There is still work to be done. We need to keep talking about this issue and make sure that people feel comfortable in coming forward.”
Harbour can be contacted on 0845 6027308.