While calls to agencies helping victims of domestic violence have started to climb in the last few years, calls to Red Deer RCMP are on the decline.
Ian Wheeliker, executive director at Red Deer Outreach Centre, said call discrepancies between police and community agencies have always existed.
About 85 per cent of victims he’s worked with through the years want to figure out how to stop the violence but don’t want their partner arrested or involved with the criminal justice system.
“We walk sort of a tightrope working with victims. We want to ensure their safety, and sometimes our best advice is that they need to work with police,” Wheeliker said.
He said it’s always the victim’s choice, but jealousy, control, or angry outbursts are all signs to reach out for help before someone is assaulted or traumatized.
Wheeliker said demand for outreach services is not yet back to pre-pandemic levels but has increased in the past year. Julietta’s Place, which provides affordable housing for women and children, has seen high occupancy throughout the pandemic.
Danica Hoffart, executive director of Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, said in October the shelter received 259 crisis calls, up from 180 calls during the same month in 2o21, 159 calls in 2020, and 55 in 2019.
“We are at more than five times the volume for crisis calls compared to pre-COVID times. Our phone just never stops ringing,” said Hoffart, who suggested that rising costs have also added a lot of stress to families.
“We’re 24/7. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why our volume is up. Women know they can phone us day or night, and we never close.”
As long as victims are calling — a community agency or police — it’s a good thing, she added.
She said the shelter has been around for 40 years and when people call, they get a sympathetic ear and trust they can get the help they need, whether it’s access to emergency housing or support while attending court or talking to police.
“We’re there to meet them where they’re at and then provide guidance to where they can access help for the next steps.”
The 40-bed Red Deer shelter is almost always at capacity with women and their children, Hoffart added.
RCMP Cpl. Candace Hrdlicka, supervisor of Red Deer’s domestic violence unit, said the five-year trend shows a nine per cent drop in calls to police concerning domestic violence or disputes.
Police received 127 calls in October 2022, 137 calls the same month in 2021, 160 calls in 2020, and 121 in 2019.
Hrdlicka said she knows that the number of calls to police doesn’t necessarily reflect what is happening in the community, and wanted to remind residents to please call the RCMP if they’re experiencing violence in the home.
“We recognize it’s not easy to come forward, especially with private matters that are going on in your home. But we’re definitely here to listen,” Hrdlicka said.
She said during Family Violence Prevention Month, the focus is on educating people, whether they are victims or offenders, that there are resources available if they reach out.
“There’s people willing and wanting to help,” said Hrdlicka, whose unit includes four constables, a social worker with the City of Red Deer.