Peel Regional Police say they will be launching an intimate partner violence unit in March in an effort to address the number of incidents reported to police, including some that are deadly.
“We’re creating a new unit and they’re going to respond to acts of crime, but we also want to prevent the crime for occurring. I don’t want to have the numbers that we have,” Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich told Global News in an interview on the heels of a two-part series about the 2019 murder of 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar.
According to statistics provided by the service, there were, on average, 50 family and intimate partner incident investigations in 2019 each day. In all, 19,123 were reported throughout the year.
The number of intimate partner disputes reported that year was up to 11,100 from 10,299 in 2018.
Milinovich said in 2019, roughly 40 per cent of all homicides were related to intimate partner violence and said those statistics led the service and the community to realize there was an opportunity to do more.
He said the idea started as a pilot project between January and June 2020, working out of a police division in Brampton. Investigators focused on case management, risk management and advocacy.
Milinovich said due to the success of that project, the service decided to expand the pilot to a dedicated unit.
The intimate partner violence unit, which will be embedded in the community, was one of a number of ideas identified by the community after establishing a plan to enhance the well-being of residents in Peel Region.
The unit will be made up of 50 specially trained plain-clothed officers. Their role will be to case manage calls for service involving intimate partner violence and to help survivors who might not otherwise report to police.
“Not every case starts at emergency response, so it’s important to respond in that area. But there are also opportunities before it escalates to that that we can get involved, that community partners can get involved, and that’s how it’s unique,” he said.
Milinovich said many survivors fleeing abuse have questions about financial stability, about whether they’re making the right choice for their family, and where they will find child care supports.
“All of these things are the considerations that the victims that we’ve spoken to, and again experts in the field have said what prevent people from reporting to police,” he explained.
Milinovich said he hopes that the dedicated unit will be able to break down silos between organizations by working closely with other community service providers in the area and the idea will be, collectively, they can have an impact.
“It really seeks to prevent the emergencies that we see by being upstream and involved earlier,” he said.
In July 2020, 25-year-old Darian Henderson-Bellman was shot to death after she went to her ex-boyfriend’s house on Deerpark Crescent in Brampton.
Twenty-seven-year-old Darnell Reid was charged with second-degree murder, possession of a loaded firearm and two counts of failing to comply with a release order. The case is still before the court.
At the time, Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duaraippah issued a statement expressing his frustration, calling it “a complete failure of our justice system to protect her.”
Milinovich said the Henderson-Bellman case reinforced the commitment of police to start the dedicated unit.
He said police had been working with Henderson-Bellman to help her try and navigate her way and the deadly shooting had an impact on the service.
“It highlighted the need to keep trying to do better, to ask survivors, ‘Is there anything we could do to prevent you from going back?'” Milinovich said.
“Realistically, we won’t be successful in every case, but it won’t be because we haven’t tried.”