More police help for abuse victims welcomed but more resources needed, charities warn
CHILDREN and adults at risk of sexual and domestic abuse will be better protected by an extra 38 specialist officers Cleveland Police has announced – a move that has been backed by local charities helping victims.
Staffing levels are set to increase in the dedicated unit dealing with online sexual offences, child exploitation, the management of registered sex offenders and domestic abuse but the force has insisted that, while changes will be made to neighbourhood policing, streets will still be patrolled by Police Community Support Officers.
“The changing nature of demand means that more crimes are happening in private spaces and behind closed doors. There has also been an increase in reports of sexual offending with more people having the confidence to come forward about historic offences.”
Deputy Chief Constable, Ian Spittal, said: “People across Cleveland will continue to see officers, we will still provide a high level of service and we will still respond to calls for service based on the threat posed to communities.
“Neighbourhood policing absolutely has a place and provides value, but has limited impact on hidden crime – which is often the most serious. The more adept criminals are not impacted by officers on foot patrol, so we need to adapt our specialisms and strengthen teams who can target and infiltrate these groups.”
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Spittal
“I believe that this reconfiguration of local policing will enable Cleveland Police to deliver a service which is balanced between protection, intervention and prevention. The new structure will help the Force to better protect vulnerable people from harm and prevent others from coming to harm.”
The Halo Project gives advice and support to women suffering honour based violence and forced marriage across the North-East and further afield, providing outreach support to over 148 victims in 2015.
Its co-ordiantor, Noreen Riaz, said that the increase in officers was a positive step but more training was needed.
“We are pleased to learn there will an increase in officers providing specific support to those who who need protection against domestic abuse, this is a much needed positive step towards tackling domestic violence in our local area.
“We believe it is still very important to work together in partnership with specialist organisations like the Halo Project to ensure the best outcomes can be achieved for the victim.”
“The charity has seen an increase in referrals year on year – domestic abuse is a real issue in our area with devastating effects for both victims and their families, it is only right we work in partnership to support and protect those who need it.”
“It is imperative victims feel they are receiving help and support not only at crisis point but to ensure there is a long term care plan in place to ensure they do not return to the violence and where possible we can also work to identify those who are at most risk.
“Awareness around forced marriage and honour based violence has improved but there is still a lot of training required to ensure victims are receiving the appropriate level of support and the necessary safeguards are put into place,” she explained.
Becky Rogerson, Chief Officer at My Sister’s Place, a charity offering help to abused women, also welcomed the news but agreed that more needed to be done.
“We’ve supported 924 women in the last 12 months in our Middlesbrough centre and we speak to many more for advice and guidance over the phone or through our community activities,” she said.
“Of these ‘active cases’, 50 per cent have reported to the police which means we liaise and work alongside the police on a daily basis to secure the safety of victims.
“We are obviously delighted by the news of more officers to respond to these cases but is it enough? Given the size of the problem, probably not.
She added: “We need to get into a position where we can put some resources into prevention and early intervention, and working with perpetrators more effectively, rather than ‘responding’ to high risk situations.”
My Sister’s Place domestic violence service – 123 Borough Rd, Middlesbrough, TS1 3AN
Call: 01642-241864 Website: www.mysistersplace.org.uk
Halo Project – website: www.haloproject.org.uk Call: 01642-683 045 Email: email@example.com