From: NATIONAL POST- Toronto sees big dip in domestic homicides, Dec. 11, Megan O’Toole and Peter Kuitenbrouwer
Posted by cgccanada on December 11, 2009
Toronto’s homicide rate is the lowest in nearly a decade, and police say “iron-clad” domestic violence policies are to credit.
As of last night, there were 59 homicides this year, compared to 70 in 2008 and 84 the year previous. Only two of the 59 cases have been domestic, compared to seven last year, and 10 in 2007.
Staff Inspector Kathryn Martin, the force’s homicide chief, gives much of the credit to measures put in place by Toronto police to combat domestic violence. While shooting deaths have been on the rise in recent years, she says, domestic killings have dropped.
“We’ve had iron-clad policies in place for many years now,” Staff Insp. Martin said, noting a supervisor is required to attend the scene of a domestic incident and put a report in. In the case of a criminal offence, police will make an arrest, she said.
“Typically what happens is, one person’s leaving. We never ever leave that couple alone again,” Staff Insp. Martin said. “So somebody’s leaving, and 99 times out of 100 it’s under arrest, and they get show-caused. They don’t get released.”
The term “show caused” refers to a process in which a person taken into custody is found initially ineligible for release. They are kept in prison pending a show cause hearing, during which a judge determines whether they can be released, and if so under what conditions. The judge can also have the accused remanded into custody pending another court appearance.
The separation period between victim and offender can help defuse the situation, police say.
Staff Insp. Martin says the Toronto force has “a big, broad definition of what a domestic is. So all those murders that used to happen because there was a lack of intervention, aren’t happening. By getting bail conditions on [an offender], so that in two weeks, when the fight would have escalated, he’s not allowed there.”
Sergeant Deborah Vittie, the force’s domestic violence co-ordinator, says an increasing emphasis on public awareness and community education has helped curb domestic killings. Efforts have specifically targeted immigrant communities, where there may be linguistic or cultural barriers to reporting crimes, she said.
The two domestic killings this year both occurred in April. In one case, a Scarborough man was accused in the stabbing death of his wife, Pamela Apoko; the couple’s son allegedly witnessed the fatal act. That same month, a woman’s former boyfriend was charged in the slaying of her new lover.
“We’re hoping in the future a lot of these tragedies can be prevented,” Sgt. Vittie said.
Shelters have continued to admit a steady stream of women and children needing help this year, said Lesley Ackrill, executive manager of Interval House, which provides services for victims of domestic violence. But the decrease in the number of domestic killings is a good sign, Ms. Ackrill noted.
“I think that the work we’re doing is paying off, but at the same time, I don’t want people to think that because it’s gone down, the problem has been solved,” Ms. Ackrill said. “That’s far from true. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Despite the progress on the domestic side, shootings in Toronto have been going the opposite way, Staff Insp. Martin said — “up, up, up.” Of the 59 homicides this year, 36 have been shootings.
“I think that’s just a statement about our culture,” she said. “I remember when I was a young police officer, somebody on the platoon would seize a gun; everybody in the platoon would come in to look at it, because that was a big deal. And now, weseize guns all the time now.”
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