New plans for tackling domestic abuse from Sussex Police

Police have introduced new initiatives to encourage the reporting of domestic abuse and to support victims.

The Force says domestic abuse remains a priority at this crucial time of further lockdown.

A new specialist unit was set up in March, and since then it says more than half of people reporting cases have opted for a special video appointment service that can be used when conversations can’t take place face to face.

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The Local Resolution Team – made up of 30 specially trained officers – is dedicated to dealing with reports of domestic abuse which are not immediately urgent. Officers discuss the incident with the caller, carry out an initial investigation and provide safeguarding advice.

Head of the force’s public protection command, detective chief superintendent Steve Rayland said, “Our preference is to see someone face to face in private at a police station. However, in March we recognised that restrictions might make people less able to attend so the force introduced new video conferencing technology.

“The officers obtain a safe contact number and send a one time text message to the caller’s smartphone. Activating this link puts the caller in to a virtual waiting room where one of our officers will be able to see and talk to them so that an investigation can take place.”

Police say that after thisthe caller is told to delete the text, which is disguised in the first place to hide any links with the police.

The Force said there were around 2,000 reports of domestic abuse to Sussex Police in February, rising before and during the first lockdown period to some 2750 per month by August, and back to levels around 2,000 again by the end of October.

Police say about 50 per cent of reports result in criminal investigation, but even where that is not the case officers are able to provide advice and access to specialist support to people reporting incidents.

Mr Rayland said, “We have adapted to ensure we can support people at risk and find them a safe space.

“It’s really important people know that alongside this new initiative we also continue to respond to domestic abuse as normal in emergency situations, arresting perpetrators and protecting vulnerable people.

“In fact, even when the first lockdown restrictions were relaxed during the summer, we found that the number of victims opting for the remote video meeting remained the same, equal to the numbers opting to visit a police station.

“No matter what is going on around us there is no excuse for domestic abuse – it simply isn’t acceptable.

“The police priority hasn’t changed if you are victim of domestic abuse I would urge you to make contact with us so that we can help.”

He also said that the force is raising awareness through lockdown and beyond by signposting people to support services and further information online.

Mr Rayland said, “We are including more targeted messaging in our awareness campaigns for the LGBTQI community following engagement with the LGBT External Reference Group, which we plan to develop in the New Year.

“Recent victim surveys indicate that reporting of domestic abuse amongst the LGBTQI community may be lower than heteronormative relationships. We know that domestic abuse can happen in any adult relationship, and we want the community to feel confident to come forward and report instances of abuse.

“Our message remains the same throughout Covid restrictions and beyond – If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you are not alone.

“We can help break the cycle of abuse. We take all allegations of domestic abuse seriously and our staff and officers understand the complexities of domestic abuse. We want to help support victims to move forward with their lives.”

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and crime commissioner, said, “We know that cases of domestic abuse and violence spiked in the first lockdown.

“As we find ourselves in a similar situation it is just as important as the first time to reach out to particularly vulnerable people and make sure they know there is someone who will listen and help them.

“I’m pleased that, following the extra investment into Sussex Police this year, we have been able to put in place innovative measures to safeguard victims at a time when it can be incredibly difficult for them to safely reach out for help.

“Police and crime commissioners are going the extra mile during this crisis to ensure that people do not feel they have to suffer in silence. We may be in lockdown but we must not feel locked out.”

Anyone that is a victim of domestic abuse or knows someone who is, and there’s an emergency that’s ongoing – call police on 999.

Once a person calls 999 they can dial 55, this tells the operator that the caller cannot talk because the perpetrator is nearby.

Anyone wanting more information can go to the Sussex Police website: https://www.sussex.police.uk/