Despite the stress of bushfire emergencies and the COVD-19 pandemic, reported domestic violence cases in the South Coast Police District are actually less than they were this time last year.
Although periods of high stress are usually associated with an increase in reported domestic violence cases, South Coast Police District Commander, Superintendent Greg Moore said an ongoing police operation targeting domestic and family violence throughout the region helped stem the tide.
Operation Solidarity, which takes in the whole Southern Region [Wollongong, Lake Illawarra, South Coast, Monaro, Riverina, Murrumbidgee and Hume (Goulburn) police districts] is a 12-month program aimed at reducing and preventing domestic and family violence.
The operation sees police targeting high-risk domestic violence offenders.
In the South Coast District, Operation Making Families Safer 2020, started on April 1 with just over 500 apprehended violence order compliance checks undertaken for the month, resulting in seven breaches detected, with offenders charged and put before the court.
"Our officers are actively knocking on the doors of those known to police to keep perpetrators accountable for their actions and to show support for victims who often find themselves in vulnerable situations," Supt Moore said.
Following that success, Supt Moore said the operation was being extended in the South Coast District until the end of May.
"The South Coast District alone takes in the area from Foxground in the north to the Victorian border. These results are pleasing but we need to continue to build on them."
He said general duties police, assisted by specialist police from the Southern Region's Domestic Violence High Risk Offender Team (DVHROT), Proactive Crime Team and Region Enforcement Squad (RES) have been involved in the operation.
"It is not just police carrying out these visits, we have also been joined by other partner agencies, like counsellors, and drug and alcohol workers," Supt Moore said.
"We know from research that times after natural disasters [such as bushfires] and factors arising from the pandemic [increased unemployment and isolation] can contribute to higher rates of violence in the household.
"We are fortunate to see that the strategies we have put in place have contributed to a slight decrease in domestic violence cases compared to the same period last year.
"Most homes we have visited are not only doing the right thing but have welcomed the police visits.
"The visits have also led to discussions on ways to minimise further incidents and to be conscious of recurring possible triggers and how best to deal with them.
"It's actually been good timing as we've been able to relax some non-essential police duties and focus on the risks the pandemic is creating, potential conflict in the home front, as well as people's wellbeing and mental health."
Police have the ability to immediately increase the protective conditions of an existing Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).
Officers also have new legislative ability to extend the length of a provisional ADVO from 28 days up to a maximum of six months when required.
"We understand and appreciate that these are trying times - but that does not change the fact that domestic violence is a criminal offence, and we're not just talking about physical assaults; it includes verbal, psychological, mental and emotional abuse," Supt Moore said.
"We make no apologies for taking action where appropriate and our officers will continue to do that.
"Anyone reported breaching an AVO who thinks they can get away with it, rest assured we will take swift action.
"But we are finding our proactive visit are working to prevent domestic violence in the first place."
He said police would continue to work with the community and community groups to promote the message of no tolerance for domestic violence.
Across the South Coast Region during April, 2500 compliance checks were undertaken and only 25 breaches recorded.
"Heading into 2020, long before the bushfires the area experienced and the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic and family violence in the area was to be a focus for the whole calendar year."
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic or family violence, multiple services are available to provide immediate support.
Available services include:
. 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a confidential information, counselling and support service;
. NSW Domestic Violence Line (1800 65 64 63) is a statewide telephone crisis counselling and referral service for women;
. Men's Referral Service (1300 766 491) provide telephone counselling, information and referrals for men;
. Link2Home (1800 152 152) can help refer women experiencing domestic violence to crisis accommodation; and
. Lifeline (13 11 14) is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
If you are in danger or in an emergency, always contact Triple Zero (000).