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Domestic violence, mental health calls up, violent crimes down amid pandemic: Saskatoon police

Counselling sessions on hold at Saskatoon sexual assault centre due to COVID-19
WATCH: Despite the limitation on services, survivors of sexual violence are not without support during the pandemic.

Reports of domestic violence have gone up 10 per cent in Saskatoon since March after measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 came into place, according to city police.

At a press conference held over Zoom Wednesday, Chief Troy Cooper said Saskatoon police have received about 125 calls in 10 weeks.

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

He said it’s a problem across the province, not just Saskatoon.

“Right now we have people who are together … under a great deal of strain and pressure with job loss and economic downturn,” Cooper said.

“Some of those causes will hopefully be temporary and hopefully we’ll be able to see things move back to normal.”

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During that same time, Cooper said mental health calls have been up and down.

Saskatoon’s Bus Stop Refreshments reopens after violent bike lock attack
Saskatoon’s Bus Stop Refreshments reopens after violent bike lock attack

When the pandemic first hit, he said police saw a “surprising” drop in these calls, including a decrease of 20 per cent in calls related to suicide at one point.

“Perhaps that just speaks to the fact that more people were around and people were home and families that could provide some supports that might not normally be there,” Cooper said.

However, those calls have started to rise again over the past couple of weeks.

“The longer that people are home under a great deal of stress then we might see some of those calls increasing,” he said.

It’s unclear why calls have suddenly increased. Cooper said police are working to find the cause.

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With more people at home, many crimes — such as break and enter — are down along with violent crimes, including a “significant reduction” in sexual violence reports.

It’s unclear whether fewer crimes involving sexual violence are being committed, or if it is harder for victims to make a complaint.

READ MORE: Counselling sessions on hold at Saskatoon sexual assault centre due to COVID-19

Saskatoon police closed its front doors at its service centre amid the pandemic. That centre reopened Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Similarly, it’s more difficult to access hospitals right now, Cooper said, and closed schools mean children can’t turn to teachers for help.

“We know that all of those things could potentially be barriers [to reporting], and that’s certainly something that we’re concerned about,” Cooper said.

He said police did have other measures to take reports, but said these crimes are “something we have to be super sensitive to” to make sure victims can get help.

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Saskatoon police have received around 400 calls about people breaching public health orders since they were put in place in March. As of Wednesday, no tickets have been issued in Saskatoon.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatoon police chief says no social distancing tickets issued despite 300-plus calls

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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