Police say four-year pilot project sees successful results

domesticviolence2thumbWith rising rates of domestic violence calls in Calgary, the Domestic Conflict Response Team is expanding to cover all of Calgary after a successful pilot in the city's northeast to tackle family violence, Calgary police said.

The Domestic Conflict Response Team started in 2009, and consists of police officers, members of HomeFront, Calgary Area Child and Family Services, and Closer to Home Community Services, which aim to intervene in domestic conflicts before the courts become involved.

"(The team) is a collaborative set that engages in homes where a 911 call has been made and charges have not been laid," Kevin McNichol said, executive director of HomeFront.domesticviolence2Kevin McNichol, executive director of HomeFront, announces that the Domestic Conflict Response Team will be expanding to all Calgary communities.

Photo by Tera Swanson

McNichol said the team involves a police officer and social worker team, potentially with a child and family services worker involved, who go to the home following up on an initial 911 call. The team inquires what had led to the call, and then works with the family on a volunteer basis to address the social issues that may have led to that call.

"The key piece here is the follow up in a timely manner from the police from the initial call for help... We work with the family and stay with them while we connect them with professionals," McNichol said.

Each district in Calgary will have a police officer and social worker team, and they are working on integrating child and family service workers into the teams as well, McNichol said. Currently, there are eight teams, with 16 people working for this initiative.

Why Calgary needs programs like this

"From the police perspective, we would show to repeat calls of the same house with the same

There are significant number surrounding domestic violence rates in the city, and what the Domestic Conflict Response Team has done to improve them:

- Calgary Police Service receives 16,000 domestic violence calls per year
- Police officers are often called to homes with repeat incidences up to 15 times per year
- The Domestic Conflict Response Team has worked on 600 cases since 2009
- McNichol estimates that these 600 cases on average account for three to four calls to the police per year, meaning that the response team has worked with approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the domestic violence calls to police
- 91 per cent of victims interviewed following these interventions reported no further incidents of physical violence
- 83 per cent of homes worked with had a reduction in further police contact
- The work of the response team has allowed 1,500 hours of police service time to be directed towards other crimes
- Projected cost to run the project across the city over the next five years is about $6.5 million, or 1.3 million per year

family, and although there were not charges being laid, as police officers we knew if something wasn't done that someone would die," Inspector Cliff O'Brien said, who is in charge of the major crime section which includes the domestic conflict unit at the Calgary Police Service

Given the success of the pilot project, it was expanded to communities in the south in 2012, and will soon be available to communities all throughout Calgary.

domesticviolence1Inspector Cliff O’Brien said that Calgary police need the help of this program to respond to domestic conflict.

Photo by Tera Swanson
With funding from the Safe Communities Innovation Fund, a fund managed by the provincial government, the response team primarily focuses on high-risk domestic conflict situations where no charges have been laid, but have escalating threats of violence.

At a press conference held on Sept. 25, Kevin McNichol said, "It's helping the community co-ordinate and drive initiatives that are going to help take us from a city that I think really has a crisis around domestic violence, to being one that doesn't face this issue." 

McNichol said that the police and child and family services, have redirected internal resources to meet this need, and HomeFront and Closer to Home Community Services are actively fundraising from the government, philanthropies and foundations to meet the remainder of the cost to run the program.

"Until this pilot project and until the Domestic Conflict Response Team was put into place, we really didn't have the tools in place to deal with those families," O'Brien said.

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