‘The num­bers just keep go­ing up’

Whanganui po­lice and agen­cies are com­ing to­gether to deal with vi­o­lence

Whanganui Chronicle - - Front Page - Abe Leach [email protected]­hron­i­cle.co.nz

In re­cent months, hun­dreds of peo­ple have come to­gether at two events to re­mem­ber mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who died as a re­sult of vi­o­lence and to call for its end. “We re­ally need to step up as a com­mu­nity.”

That’s the word from Whanganui Area Com­man­der In­spec­tor Nigel Al­lan, who says lo­cal po­lice are ac­tively work­ing on their ca­pac­ity to pre­vent fam­ily vi­o­lence, while also main­tain­ing their role in at­tend­ing in­ci­dents that have oc­curred.

Over the past two years, Whanganui po­lice have in­creased their fo­cus on the is­sue in the form of the Safer Wha¯nau pro­gramme.

“We have built the team from two staff to the 13 that we have now,” Al­lan said.

“Of those po­si­tions, we’ve de­vel­oped a new po­si­tion at se­nior sergeant level, we’ve got two sergeants, two de­tec­tives, four con­sta­bles.”

Two other roles in the group are linked to lo­cal iwi, who Whanganui po­lice are also work­ing with as part of the project.

“The Safer Wha¯ nau group is much less about in­ci­dent at­ten­dance which is still dealt with at the front line. It’s ac­tu­ally giv­ing us the ca­pac­ity to work with wha¯ nau ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fam­ily harm.

“It’s about en­gage­ment and open­ing the door, and then re­fer­ring on to the agen­cies we have in our com­mu­nity so we can get the best sup­port for those fam­i­lies.”

Al­lan said Safer Wha¯nau was part of a larger com­mu­nity re­sponse to fam­ily harm which was in the works.

Al­lan said the preva­lence of fam­ily vi­o­lence wasn’t unique to Whanganui.

“We shouldn’t say there’s not a prob­lem there be­cause clearly we’ve had these in­ci­dents hap­pen, and to me that em­pha­sises the need to work to­gether as a com­mu­nity.

“I don’t be­lieve it makes our com­mu­nity more at risk or any worse than any oth­ers, it’s just we are deal­ing with these in­ci­dents here and we re­ally need to step up as a com­mu­nity,” Al­lan said.

There had been an in­crease in the num­ber of fam­ily harm in­ci­dents in Whanganui year-on-year, but it was not a sim­ple mea­sure to judge, he said.

“Na­tion­ally, we un­der­stand about a quar­ter of fam­ily harm episodes that oc­cur get re­ported to po­lice, and that’s a pretty well-un­der­stood statis­tic.

“Part of the prob­lem is that if we just look at re­port­ing, the bet­ter we are able to sup­port and

"It’s dif­fi­cult to re­move the fact that the num­ber of re­ported in­ci­dents is go­ing up."

In­spec­tor Nigel Al­lan,

Whanganui Area Com­man­der

bet­ter con­nected we are, we would ac­tu­ally ex­pect to see an in­crease in re­port­ing be­cause peo­ple have the con­fi­dence and the chan­nels.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to re­move the fact that the num­ber of re­ported in­ci­dents is go­ing up, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily re­flect that we’ve got more fam­ily harm oc­cur­ring.”

The in­crease in re­port­ing is also be­ing felt by agen­cies through­out Whanganui, such as Rise: Stop­ping Vi­o­lence Ser­vices which of­fers sup­port to peo­ple and fam­i­lies af­fected by vi­o­lence.

“A lot of agen­cies around town are try­ing to do the best we can but the num­bers just keep go­ing up,” man­ager Shaina Petersen said.

Petersen has been in­volved with the agency for about a year and helps those go­ing through the Fam­ily Court or with pre-sen­tence con­di­tions take part in a non-vi­o­lence pro­gramme.

Rise is con­tracted through Cor­rec­tions and re­ceives fund­ing from the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment to fa­cil­i­tate self-re­fer­rals as well.

As well as Whanganui, Rise serves ar­eas be­tween Haw­era and Marton.

It aims to ad­dress vi­o­lence early by work­ing with chil­dren as young as 11 through to adults.

Petersen said re­fer­rals of­ten came through schools where be­hav­iour might be picked up, but the cri­te­ria to go to the agency was the pres­ence of vi­o­lence at home.

“Peo­ple of­ten think it is only phys­i­cal but there are a whole lot of other lev­els to vi­o­lence,” Petersen said.

“There’s psy­cho­log­i­cal, in­tim­i­da­tion, fi­nan­cial, but phys­i­cal is of­ten the ex­treme end.”

From July 2018 to June 2019, the agency dealt with 725 re­fer­rals, up 33 per cent on the pre­vi­ous year when there were 543 re­fer­rals.

In the 2018-19 pe­riod there were more re­fer­rals in Whanganui alone than the to­tal num­ber of re­fer­rals across the agency’s en­tire ser­vice ter­ri­tory the pre­vi­ous year.

Petersen said the level of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween agen­cies work­ing to pre­vent fam­ily vi­o­lence in Whanganui was good, but “there can al­ways be im­prove­ments” when it came to fund­ing.

Un­der­stand­ing an early warn­ing sign was an im­por­tant fac­tor in ad­dress­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence, Petersen said.

“Homi­cide is the most ex­treme end and it’s very rarely that it would go to that ex­treme with­out lit­tle warn­ing signs.

“It is things like iso­la­tion, if you no­tice some­one is in a re­la­tion­ship and they’re be­ing iso­lated from their

wha¯nau or friend group.

“Most peo­ple have the mis­con­cep­tion that vi­o­lence is about anger man­age­ment, but vi­o­lence is about power and con­trol.”

Safer Whanganui is a Whanganui District Coun­cil or­gan­i­sa­tion that acts as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor be­tween agen­cies work­ing to stop vi­o­lence in Whanganui.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion aims to en­hance com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives around fam­ily harm, such as re­cently sup­port­ing White Rib­bon Whanganui rep­re­sen­ta­tives who spoke and gave out branded gear, in­clud­ing White Rib­bon builders’ pen­cils, at a trade in­dus­try break­fast.

“This time we’ve gone with the trades com­mu­nity and it’s the first time we’ve done some­thing like that,” Safer Whanganui man­ager Lau­ren Tame­hana said.

“You do have to be a lit­tle bit gim­micky. Builders al­ways use a pen­cil and as they keep us­ing their pen­cil the mes­sage is there; ev­ery time they put it down on a work site, some­one is go­ing to see that mes­sage.

“Re­in­force­ment of the mes­sage is what we want across our com­mu­nity.”

Tame­hana said there were com­mit­ted peo­ple do­ing good work around fam­ily harm, but it took a col­lec­tive ef­fort such as this month’s White Rib­bon march to ad­dress the is­sue.

The march is due to take place as part of White Rib­bon Day on Fri­day, Novem­ber 22.

It will start at mid­day and those tak­ing part are ad­vised to as­sem­ble at the St Hill St and Taupo Quay in­ter­sec­tion.

Tame­hana said an im­por­tant way to ad­dress fam­ily harm was for every­one to make a pledge to “stand up, speak out and say no to vi­o­lence” at the march.

“That’s a re­spon­si­bil­ity that ev­ery sin­gle one of us in our com­mu­nity has. The re­spon­si­bil­ity for that doesn’t sit with any one or­gan­i­sa­tion or group, it sits with ev­ery sin­gle per­son in our town.”

PHOTO / FILE

A whole-com­mu­nity ap­proach is needed to pre­vent fam­ily harm, agency lead­ers say.

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