Police Complain About the Time it Takes to Investigate Domestic Violence During COVID-19

The Vancouver Police Department released a new report with crime statistics for the first nine months of the year. The report compares January to September 2020 to the same time period. This report will be tabled at the next meeting of the Vancouver Police Board, Thursday, October 29.

The report included comments that could be interpreted as opinions that could give insight in the organizational culture at the Vancouver Police Department.

Under Violent Crimes, the statistics on sexual violence were reported as “positive results”. This is incorrect, as we know at BWSS, it’s well established that sexual violence is rarely reported to the police. Later in the report, the statement is made “Sexual offences are often reported historically…” which is in direct opposition to their notion of “positive results”.

During the same reporting period, BWSS received more reports of sexual violence this year than we did the previous year. Our interpretation is a confirmation that victims prefer to contact community-based organizations rather than police.

According to the VPD statistics they received 4.6% increase in domestic violence calls which is somewhat consistent with what has been seen all around the world. However, it appears that more women have been seeking a community-based response and not the police. For instance, BWSS saw a 415% increase compared to last year during the same period.

The next piece we want to comment on, we find quite troubling, bordering on offensive. Where in the second statement under Intimate Partner Violence the VPD reports that domestic violence files are  “are very time-consuming for patrol officer…,” when is it appropriate for an agency responsible for law enforcement that purports to care about victims safety to provide an opinion such as this?

It continues, “…often consuming an entire shift”. When we have no information on how much it takes investigating other forms of criminal activity. We’ve heard from someone who was ticketed for jaywalking that took three days to investigate. We note that this is the only comment made in the entire report on investigated crimes.

This kind of value judgment that is included from the Vancouver Police Department to the Vancouver Police Board gives us a clear indication that there’s been an erosion in police response to gender-based violence in Vancouver. However, during COVID 19 women we have worked with who have chosen to report domestic violence to the police describe having difficulty reaching the police, getting callbacks from the police and lack of status of the report. Moreover, on a daily basis our crisis team, in virtually every instance, advocates on behalf of women for an effective response from police. That in our experience in the majority of stats the advocacy from the BWSS team goes on longer than an “entire shift”.

The release of this report is very interesting, we understand advocacy groups seeking racial justice have tabled a request that the Vancouver Police Board reduce funding to the VPD and reinvest that in community-based response.

Please watch Angela Marie MacDougall who spoke to Global TV last night regarding the VPD report.

More from the report

Violent crime levels for 2020 are similar to 2019. In 2019, there was a 10.4 percent increase in violent crime during the same reporting period when compared to the previous year. An analysis of 2020 violent crime incidents shows that:

  • the number of homicides is higher than last year – 14 in 2020 versus nine in 2019;
  • Sexual offences reported in 2020 decreased 5.2% versus 2019 (for offences that occurred in 2020 compared to those that occurred in 2019, sexual offences decreased by 14.1%)”
  • the most serious assaults – assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and aggravated assault –  have increased by 14.1 percent over the previous year, while all assaults increased by nearly two per cent;
  • intimate partner violence is 4.6 per cent higher than 2019 (all time highest recorded incidence of intimate partner violence);
  • anti-Asian hate crime incidents have increased by 138 per cent;
  • sexual offences reported to police have decreased by 5.2 percent;
  • robberies have decreased by 6.1 percent; and
  • assaults against police officers have gone up 47 percent and over the past five years assaults against police officers have increased 86 percent.