The Christmas and New Year holidays were once again peak periods for reports of domestic abuse in Sussex, according to police figures.
Sussex Police again dedicated ‘Operation Cranberry’ patrols to respond to reports of domestic abuse over the Christmas and New Year period, with officers equipped with body-worn video cameras to help secure vital evidence, as a part of the force’s year-round campaign to encourage reporting of such incidents.
Patrols began on December 20 and continued until January 1. But officers continue to respond to and deal with such calls the year round and the force, working with partners, also prioitises the issue through the ongoing Talk To Me campaign which encourages the reporting of domestic abuse.
A total of 979 incident calls were responded to across Sussex by Cranberry units and other officers, resulting in 257 specific crime reports of various kinds ranging from assault to harassment. The incident call numbers ranged from 61 on December 21 to 127 on New Years Day. The Sunday before Christmas and Christmas Day were the next highest with 75 and 85 respectively.
Domestic abuse is always treated as a priority by the force, but due to the regular increase in incidents throughout the festive season it was vital that there were sufficient resources available to manage and respond to calls for urgent help.
Every day of the campaign, teams of uniformed officers worked a dedicated shift to attend incidents of domestic abuse as their sole priority over all other types of policing incidents.
Officers working on Operation Cranberry were also kept up to date by intelligence briefings about victims who may be particularly vulnerable, and about specific offenders who may pose a higher risk. In addition to officers attending the homes of victims, teams of specialist detectives carry out follow-up investigations into domestic abuse crimes.
Sussex police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne said: “It is sad to know that even during what is meant to be a happy festive time for friends and family, Sussex Police were responding to a huge amount of domestic abuse incidents. The need for dedicated patrols over Christmas and the New Year has proved again to be a necessity. I am grateful to the officers who worked these shifts and helped those victims who had the courage to contact Sussex Police and seek help.
“The increase in reporting gives Sussex Police a better understanding of how widespread domestic abuse is. I fully support the recent campaigns with partner agencies to raise awareness of the issue and it will continue to be a high priority for me.”
Detective Inspector Stuart Hale from the force’s Protecting Vulnerable People Branch said; “This was the fifth year that we operated these force-wide patrols, anticipating that this period would be particularly busy with calls for help, and again we were sadly proved correct.
“During this period we received an average of 73 domestic abuse calls every day, compared with an average of 63 such calls every day for the rest of the year.
“The increase over the holiday period is often down to higher alcohol consumption, combined with families spending more time than usual with each other. Relationships which are potentially abusive may come to a head at this time.
“The increase in incident reporting over the past year has also been particularly noticeable, and we think it may be due at least in part to the fact that we are actively campaigning, with partner agencies, to raise awareness of this issue and the support available to vulnerable people in dealing with it.
“We want people to be confident in contacting us for advice and assistance, and we see the figures as evidence that our efforts are beginning to pay off.
“The incidents reported did not necessarily result in crime reports, as many concerned for example ongoing family or personal disputes where other positive action was required from our officers, such as the giving of advice and/or information on support available for specific individual circumstances. The important point is that our officers have become more aware of the range of support and advice our partners offer. Thanks to third party reporting officers were also able to record intelligence for future purposes.
“In addition, every case in which a crime was recorded is being followed up for appropriate investigation and where appropriate prosecution or other action, although it is too early to give definitive statistics for these outcomes. Early attendance by police officers using video cameras increases the chance of gaining quality evidence, not just relying on the victim’s word against their abuser.
“All agencies can help to end abuse if they are made aware of it. Domestic Abuse affects families and perpetrators can be parents, children and siblings as well as partners. I encourage anyone who is suffering abuse by a partner or family member to report this, if not to police, at least to a professional person or one of the agencies who specialise in providing expert support and advice.”
Sussex Police continues to treat all domestic abuse incidents as a priority at all times of year and to work closely with other agencies to keep victims safe. Although the majority of domestic abuse occurs against women, nearly one in five victims of abuse is a man. Anyone who is suffering any form of abuse by a partner or family member is encouraged to report this by ringing the police on 101, or in an emergency dialling 999.
For advice and support, and for further about the Talk To Me campaign focusing on domestic abuse, visit www.sussex.police.uk or call 101 or 01273 470101. To join in the Twitter debate, use #talktous.
If you don’t want to talk to the police, talk to someone. These organisations can also help;
The 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 - www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk
West Sussex - WORTH on 0330 222 8181 www.worthservices.org
Brighton & Hove - RISE helpline on 01273622822 www.Riseuk.org.uk
East Sussex Domestic Abuse Service on 0844 225 0657