Police concern over rise in youth cases
GEELONG police are confronted with the horrors of family violence every day.
Officers in the specialist family violence unit are inundated with calls from women and children under attack in their own homes.
Police are increasingly being called to reports of children acting violently towards their parents.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Detective Senior Sergeant Nick Uebergang was fearful family violence would escalate.
Police decided to get on the front foot and proactively reach out to victims and perpetrators of family violence to try to stop it happening in the community.
Initially, police saw a decline in reports of family violence, sparking fears some violence was not being reported.
“As we saw later on in the year — and as we came out of lockdown — we saw people were reporting family violence and we did see a rise,” Sergeant Uebergang said.
“October onwards, our family violence went up in the western region.”
New family violence data — covering September 2019 to September last year — shows family violence dropped in Geelong during May, but climbed sharply in August.
Sergeant Uebergang said while coronavirus did not impact family violence reports as much as expected, family violence across the region was continuing to rise.
“Family violence is going up and people have the confidence to report it that they didn’t have previously,” he said
“There are more services which are continuing to promote family violence and to make it not a taboo subject.
“That is encouraging people to come forward.”
But Sergeant Uebergang said worrying emerging instances of family violence included:
MORE young people abusing their parents or carers;
RISING instances of violence between underage couples; and
INCREASES in digital violence — including using stalking victims through social media.
Sergeant Uebergang said the policing unit had seen a “significant” rise in referrals for young perpetrators of violence.
“What we are seeing is that there are more youth perpetrators of family violence in the community,” he said.
“That’s due to numerous things — unemployment, being at home during the lockdown.”
He said the way police dealt with the reports had also changed.
“We are going to incidences involving youth — a boyfriend and girlfriend — and we are recording that as family violence,” he said.
Sergeant Uebergang said police were most commonly called to breaches of intervention orders and arguments between parties known to one another.
Police also respond to the most serious types of violence — where victims are held against their will or when they have been seriously injured.
But Sergeant Uebergang said the way police were responding to family violence was improving every day, with the integration of services ensuring victims were directly linked to the support they needed.
“In the past, we could work in silos; as police we would go and lock them (perpetrators) up and hold them accountable,” he said.
“But now there are support services to ensure that the drivers of violence are addressed and we can assist them in getting counselling to stop the behaviour.”