New problem-solving teams launched to support victims of domestic abuse
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DI Mike Calvert (front, centre) and members of the south DAPST.
Three new teams have been created to support victims of domestic abuse in Essex.
The Domestic Abuse Problem Solving Teams (DAPST) work to understand the issues that trigger incidents, address victims’ concerns, and enforce protection orders against perpetrators.
The teams, based in Southend, Harlow and Colchester, were created after analysis highlighted the number of investigations that were closed after the victim withdrew their support for prosecution.
With police regularly being called to incidents involving the same victims and perpetrators, Detective Inspector Jamie Mills conducted research into why people became trapped in cycles of abuse.
He worked with a domestic abuse expert at Anglia Ruskin University to learn more about the psychology of victims, the barriers they face and the stages they go through.
He then commissioned a 12-month pilot in Clacton – Operation Teardrop – under DS Hayley Lambert where one part-time officer was dedicated to spending more time engaging with victims.
DI Mills said: “The Domestic Abuse Investigation Team tend to deal with today’s demand so don’t always have the opportunity to spend a long time with victims exploring their problems.
“During the pilot, the officer would take time to understand our vulnerable victims’ issues and see if we could address them. That involved measures like busting myths around the prosecution process, going on court familiarisation visits, and making sure they were receiving the right support from other agencies.”
More than 100 victims were referred into the project and there was a 67% success rate of getting them to reengage with a prosecution.
“It was having a really positive impact and our victims felt supported. Even those we weren’t able to get on board with a prosecution gave us positive feedback and said they felt confident to come back to us in the future,” added DI Mills.
The success of the pilot led to the formation of a DAPST in each of the three local policing areas in the county.
The teams focus on medium to high-risk victims, and have an enforcement arm with officers dedicated to searching for outstanding offenders, and ensuring that the terms of protection and prevention orders are being complied with.
PC Amy Howard, DS Hayley Lambert and PC Roger Henderson of the north DAPST.
Detective Inspector Mike Calvert leads the south DAPST. He said that understanding the problems behind the abuse is the key to preventing it. In Southend, a quarter of all high-risk victims and half of all perpetrators struggle with substance abuse.
He said: “We had to try something different to try to break the cycle of abuse and offending.
“Some couples have very chaotic, transient lives and they’re dependant on each other for a few necessities - that might be drugs and alcohol.
“If we can solve that part of their lives by getting them onto a rehabilitation programme or fixing their housing situation through our partners in the council, it could be that it solves their domestic abuse problem too.
“Our job isn’t to split people up but if we can put the right kind of directed approach into victim and perpetrator, the benefit will be less domestic abuse.
“This is a long-term project and given enough time, I’m very confident we’ll be able to stop the same people calling us for the same reason. We’ve got to be able to show victims that there’s is a better way. Your life doesn’t have to be this continuing cycle of abuse.”
One of the most recent DAPST successes stories saw mum Katie Mills receive a courage and bravery award from the High Sheriff of Essex after agreeing to testify against her ex. He received four months and a two-year restraining order after subjecting Katie to violence and controlling behaviour.
She was supported by PC Roger Henderson from the north DAPST. Katie said that without PC Henderson’s support she wouldn’t have gone through with the prosecution.
“I can’t tell you how this has changed my life – the strength and empowerment it has given me,” she said.