Meth and bad housing fuelling huge spike in Dunedin family violence

Whangais Nga Pa Harakeke co-ordinator in Dunedin Senior Sergeant Janelle Timmins. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Whangais Nga Pa Harakeke co-ordinator in Dunedin Senior Sergeant Janelle Timmins. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Methamphetamine, the housing crisis and more people reporting incidents have contributed to a big rise in family harm reports in Dunedin, police say.

Family harm investigations in Dunedin jumped from 28 in May 2018 to 142 in June 2018, rising steadily from there to reach a peak of 195 in January this year before dropping to 183 in February, according to the most recent police data.

The police are increasing the number of officers in the city focused on family harm, as a new police-sponsored initiative aimed at reducing domestic violence is introduced in the South.

Whangaia Nga Pa Harakeke has been piloted in three areas in the North Island and is now being rolled out nationally.

Senior Sergeant Janelle Timmins is its co-ordinator in Dunedin.

"Our immediate goal is to have a new way of working in the family harm sector more cohesively alongside iwi, community NGOS and government agencies, and really build on that collaboration," she said.

"We're working to create one door, so whatever door you go through you will get the assistance you need, and we're not having to pass people on."

Snr Sgt Timmins said the programme would start in about six months and result in significantly more police tasked with addressing family harm.

The success of the pilots in Counties-Manukau, Gisborne and the Far North made her confident the approach would work in the South, she said.

"If we're working better together, and if we're taking this out [from] behind closed doors, then we should see an increase in reporting ... and a decrease in the level of harm."

In Dunedin, there was already a daily inter-agency meeting focusing on the events of the past 24 hours.

That work would expand to include dedicated staff, specialist services for both victims and perpetrators and a case management strategy to work with high-risk families.

When she began working in family harm in Dunedin in 2010, she was the only officer tasked fulltime in that area, Snr Sgt Timmins said.

There were now six staff in her team and it was set to expand.

Her staff did not attend the first domestic violence call, but read the reports and made assessments, looking at who the best person was to make contact, she said.

"And that may not be us - it may be there's a midwife with a good relationship; all those sorts of things."

Police in Dunedin had reported a significant and sustained rise in domestic violence calls this year, following a steady increase over the past six years.

The usual lull in reports in February and March had not happened this year and police in the city now dealt with about 60 family violence calls per week.

Snr Sgt Timmins said better reporting due to public campaigns was a factor, along with alcohol, drugs and intergenerational violence.

"Methamphetamine is definitely a driver and we're seeing it more in family harm reports."

Shortages of rental homes, cold and damp houses, and poverty also spurred family violence.

"Unhealthy housing increases stress levels at home, and you increase your risk of those stress levels getting to a boiling point."

Snr Sgt Timmins urged those who were experiencing domestic violence to reach out via the Women's Refuge crisis line, Shine, or the Areyouok.org.nz website, emphasising none of these needed to result in police action.

"Sometimes it's just a conversation - it's just meeting up and doesn't necessarily have to lead to reporting and court."

Last year, Women's Refuge in Dunedin said the worsening housing crisis and the impact of methamphetamine had contributed to record demand for its services.

Manager Wenda Parata-Muir said last year bed nights provided in the organisation's Dunedin safe houses had jumped 14%, from 2554 in 2016-17 to 2910 in 2017-18.

Need help?

Women’s Refuge: 0800 REFUGE  (0800 733-843)
Shine: 9am-11pm every day, 0508 744-633
Shakti (for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children): 0800 742-584
Rape Crisis: 0800 883-300


 

Comments

How many people does Methamphetamine hurt or kill in NZ each year, how many families does it touch each year? - Where is the Governments quickly rolled out policy to combat Methamphetamine? I suspect it brings way to much money in to the Governments coffers when those trading in it a caught so why would you cut off that stream of income for the Government, I bet it kills more people than law abiding Gun owners

New Zealand, has been following American trends for decades now. When is there going to be any New Zealand Governments, that combat other countries influences on New Zealand?Why is there no crackdown on drugs in this country? As for damp and uninsulated housing in New Zealand, its going to take decades to have housing, on par to healthy standards for all New Zealanders in the future.
There should be new immigration requirements be made for anyone wanting to migrate to New Zealand to live. Build 2 houses to live here. The Otherwise find another country to migrate and live in. As this would decrease, immigration to New Zealand, but require more housing be built, to meet the lack of housing in this country.

 

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