Peel Regional Police are taking what some might call a rare step in addressing the growing number of family and intimate partner violence cases, and addressing a major gap in the shelter system.
Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah says among the initiatives are teaming up with community partners to build a transitional house for women in crisis, including victims and survivors of sex trafficking and gender-based violence.
“We see the pressures of victims who are in crisis,” said Duraiappah. “We’re the crossroads of having the line of sight to so many people who want the help, it’s very natural for us to bring people together. We are probably one of the first municipalities to really invest in the transitional housing project, and some of that has come through grant funding.”
According to Duraiappah the home is scheduled to open later this summer.
The police chief says this is part of the force’s human trafficking initiative, that includes an investigative police team and community organizations that work together in offering a wide variety of services to these victims and survivors who are looking to leave.
Shelters and crisis lines across the province received over 65,000 calls from women in need last year. Front line workers across the province have oftentimes raised concerns about the lack of funding available to programs and services. Chief Duraiappah understands that the shelter system for women in crisis is particularly at capacity, and hopes the transitional house will offer more beds for women.
Despite the fact the city of Toronto has a significantly larger population, Peel Region has recorded the highest rates of domestic related homicides. Last year, 13 of the 31 homicides investigated were cases involving family or intimate partner violence.
“This is a sincere concern for us as an organization in the community,” he said. “I think across the policing community, a focus on looking at police practices as it pertains to sexual assaults and domestic violence, has really taken the forefront in the last several years.”
Full interview: Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah speaks with CityNews reporter Faiza Amin about the rising numbers in family/intimate partner homicides, the highest in all of the GTA
Chief Duraiappah says the police force is also reviewing family and intimate partner cases, that would help identify a timeline of events and answer critical questions, including how the homicides happened and identify any gaps that exist.
“We look at how did we get to the homicide,” he said. “We’ve asked the team to say how many intervention points did we have down the line, and then you add to that narrative, how may intervention points did perhaps the physician have. Maybe they saw it through the education system, through the children.”
Earlier this year, Peel police launched a pilot project that would have a dedicated team of investigators following up on reports of domestic violence, instead of uniformed police officers. Currently, the project is only operating out of 21 Division but the Chief says it has been successful and he is currently looking at how to implement this across the force.
“Having a dedicated team of individuals who have consistency, understand the victimization of people and can give consistent service delivery when we bring someone in, investigate the matter and have case continuity has always been the best model,” said Duraiappah. “With certainty it is one of our strategic priorities, to have a dedicated team across the whole region that is committed to dealing with intimate partner/family violence.”