Family safety police ‘priority’ 

Matt Loughrin

Family harm incidents were up in Cambridge – but down in Te Awamutu last year.

A review of Waipā data indicates there was a three percent increase in family harm reported in Cambridge – 509 incidents reported in 2021 compared to 494 in 2020. In Te Awamutu, there was a nine percent reduction – 844 in 2021 and 925 in 2020.

Dealing with family harm incidents is a priority for police in the Waikato West policing, area which encompasses the Waipā District, Waikato West Area commander inspector Will Loughrin told The News.

“Reducing the number and impact of family harm episodes in our local community, along with our partner agencies, is a key focus for us.”

Nationally, there continues to be an increase in calls to police for family harm related matters.

Despite the 2021 figures, police say family violence investigations, per 10,000 people, show Cambridge below the national average of 337.2 at 237.9 and Te Awamutu well above it at 632.2.

“Any rise in numbers of family harm reports could reflect a number of things, including an increased willingness by victims, whānau and witnesses to call police,” Loughrin said.

“This is by and large through the success of the many family harm awareness programmes being run and publicised over recent years. Through being called to incidents police are able to intervene early and make sure that people are safe.

He acknowledged the Covid-19 alert-level restrictions had put considerable strain on families.

“Common themes that we are seeing across our area continue to be gambling, alcohol and drug abuse. Mental health is also another significant driver of family harm demand.”

Not all family harm situations involve violence or injuries.

“Sometimes it involves ensuring someone who is being physically aggressive or abusive is removed from a situation to keep others safe, while other times police may spend a considerable amount of time just talking to people, and ensuring they have appropriate referrals to other agencies who can help.

“Our focus is on ensuring those involved in family harm matters – which can include children or other dependants in the household – are safe and well, and we utilise our community partners to do this.”

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