Police stats show domestic violence a constant issue in Merritt

By on March 7, 2018
(Graphic by Cole Wagner).


Police statistics for the Southeast District show an alarming trend in Merritt that local police are trying to curb in 2018.

Between 2011 and 2014 Merritt’s domestic dispute files were the highest in the Southeast District, with a rate of about eight domestic violence files per 1,000 people.

In 2011 that number was 8.61, followed by 9.18 in 2012, 7.13 in 2013 and 7.19 in 2014.

In 2015 Merritt ranked second in the Southeast District with a rate of 6.66 domestic violence files per 1,000.

Southeast District covers 29 B.C. towns from the Alberta border to the east to Hope on the west, and from the Okanagan in the south up to Vavenby in the north.

“We consistently rank in the top three,” Dunsmore told the Herald.

Dunsmore said that while they don’t have the district’s 2016 and 2017 stats yet, police expect the numbers to be similar as they have not seen a noticeable change in reported domestic violence calls.

The population of Merritt was pegged at 7,139 people in the 2016 census, and Dunsmore said Merritt police rack up about 75 domestic violence charges every year.

These district numbers, however, only scratch the surface as Southeast District only compiles files that result in police laying charges.

“Anything that doesn’t result in charges or is just a verbal instance — they don’t count,” Dunsmore said.

Statistics compiled by the Merritt RCMP itself do take into account the unfounded calls making their numbers a bit higher.

“We would include numbers where there may not be charges, but there’s evidence of domestic violence, we just don’t have enough evidence to charge somebody in those cases,” Dunsmore told the Herald.

Merritt RCMP’s numbers have consistently been above 150 files per year for the past five years, but have seen a bit of a decline the last two years after climbing to a five-year high in 2015.

In 2013, police responded to 158 domestic disputes, 195 in 2014 and 218 in 2015.

In 2016, Merritt police saw 185 files and 167 in 2017 according to Merritt RCMP statistics.

Dunsmore said she thinks alcohol abuse plays a factor in why Merritt’s numbers are so high, noting many of the domestic dispute files she sees are alcohol related.

“It seems to be an accepted norm in the community,” she said.

Dunsmore said the majority of the abused in the statistics are women, and neither the detachment’s, nor Southeast District’s numbers, account for the number of sexual assaults police deal with.

“We probably are investigating one or two sexual assaults a week in the community,” Dunsmore told the Herald.

In response to the high numbers, the Merritt RCMP  and its integrated case assessment team (ICAT)  is now working on a public awareness campaign.

“We’re looking at doing a community meeting here in April probably to discuss what some of the needs are, what some of the gaps are and what are some programming that we can possibly put into effect,” Dunsmore told the Herald.

ICAT shares information and discusses files with women who are at high risk of violence and try to deal with them within the community,” Dunsmore told the Herald.

Making people aware of the number of agencies Merritt has to offer people in need of help is key, Dunsmore said, adding that people don’t need to be referred to these programs.

RCMP: Awareness key to curbing domestic abuse

The high number of domestic disputes, however, could be an indication that awareness is in fact spreading and more people are reporting domestic violence than in the past, Dunsmore explained.

“We want people calling in and reporting, but we also want the follow through,” Dunsmore said.

Unfortunately, police often see a high rate of recidivism when it comes to their work on domestic violence, she added.

“It’s because of the situation people see themselves in,” she said. “Sometimes it’s something that’s gone on for years, sometimes it’s a one-time incident, so when people are intrenched in that it’s hard for them to get out of that mindset.”

Domestic violence is a complicated issue, with victims having to consider other factors such as money, children and not having anywhere else to go — which often keeps someone trapped in an abusive relationship.

“That’s why we want to make sure the information is out there,” Dunsmore said, adding that the RCMP can offer a transition home and access to funding to help people escape abusive relationships.

There are a multitude of local agencies that offer support to people at risk of domestic violence including Scw’exmx Community Health, the Conayt Friendship Society and Nicola Family Therapy said Dunsmore.

“If you are somebody or know somebody that suffers from violence in a relationship, or [are] trying to help family members, if you’re a male who’s in that type of community then you can go to any of these agencies and look for what’s available for you to get counselling, to get service or training,” Dunsmore said.

One Comment

  1. Othmar

    March 11, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Keeping domestic violence offenders locked up and hand down severe punishments, would go a long way to lower that statistic. As it stands many domestic violence offenders walk free the very same day again and if it goes to court they are not sentenced, provided they promise to sign up to a counseling program, which most don’t do and are then arrested again for domestic violence. Statics shows that the majority of domestic violence is committed time and again by the same offenders.

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