The number of domestic violence cases in Squamish jumped by 70 per cent in 2013.
The figure is surprising, Squamish RCMP Staff Sgt. Brian Cumming said on Monday (Jan. 6). The community led the Sea to Sky Corridor with 71 cases compared to 38 in 2012. By comparison, Whistler saw just 37 reports of domestic violence in 2013.
“On New Year’s Eve we had three domestics and really very little else,” Cumming said.
Detachment officials are scratching their heads over the spike. In 2012, a province-wide protocol changed the way Squamish RCMP tracked domestic violence. But the updated data-collecting method doesn’t account for the all of the increase, Cumming said. Nor is the jump linked to a single household chronically dealing with domestic abuse, he added.
Either way, the subject has landed in the middle of Squamish RCMP’s radar.
“It’s something we are certainly taking note of,” Cumming said.
The number of women requesting Howe Sound Women’s Centre (HSWC) services mimics that of the RCMP’s increased statistics, said Deanna Enders, HSWC transition house co-ordinator.
Last September, the women’s and children’s shelter was forced to find alternative housing outside of Squamish for a young mother and baby when Pearl’s Place Transition House’s six beds were full. Although it wasn’t the first time the centre had faced such a situation, it was the first time the transition house’s beds were all occupied for such an extended period, Enders said.
The increase may relate to a greater awareness regarding domestic abuse and people’s willingness to report it, she said. Forty-nine per cent of Squamish residents are between the ages of 25 to 54. Domestic abuse statistically occurs in the younger demographic, tapering off as people grow older, Enders noted.
“There’s also financial stress. In terms of [the economic downturn], it has been going on for so long,” she said.
The issue has surfaced amid 2014 District of Squamish budget debates. Last November, the Squamish RCMP lost the community’s only victim services employee when the staff member left to take another job. The position, which costs the DOS $24,102 per year, was left vacant because of funding uncertainty and, until this week, was on the chopping block for 2014.
On Tuesday (Jan. 7), that uncertainty was lifted when council elected to reinstate the position in the budget. It’s still subject to final council budget approval.
Axing the position isn’t a realistic option, Coun. Bryan Raiser said.
That’s news Squamish RCMP and the Howe Sound Women’s Centre officials hoped to hear. Victim services employees work directly with police to provide emotional support, information and referrals to victims of crime and trauma. But a large part of the position deals with domestic violence — both preventative and after the fact, Cumming said.
In Squamish, victim services also served as the RCMP’s go-between with the Howe Sound Women’s Centre and the Ministry of Children and Family Development. While it’s not going to be the silver bullet in ending domestic violence in Squamish, the position is valued, Cumming said.
“It is definitely something we are trying to replace,” he said.