Research — 24 November 2016
Drugs have overtaken alcohol as a factor in family violence incidents, according to raw police figures provided to Fairfax Media.

drugs-908533_960_720And the scourge of family violence is rapidly rising, with police called to almost twice as many incidents in 2016 as they were four years ago.

Domestic Violence Resource Centre chief executive Emily Maguire said the rise in reports, while shocking, was “entirely expected”.“We estimate that only about 40-50 per cent of all family violence incidents are being reported to police,” she said.

“In the past decade, reports to police have been rising each year – after another decade, we expect that to plateau.”

As the number of domestic violence reports continue to rise, police data suggests that the widespread use of methylamphetamines, including ice, is changing the face of domestic violence.

But the full extent of the problem cannot be known, as police do not automatically record their suspicions that family violence offenders are drunk or high; it is up to individual officers to record their concerns – and many do not.

A police spokeswoman said the growing impact of methylamphetamines on communities was “a worrying trend”, but cautioned the data did not break down what sort of drugs people were using when they were accused of family violence.

When they attend a family violence incident, police have the option of recording a “flag” that the suspected offender is affected by drugs or alcohol.

In the 2015-16 financial year, a staggering 25,197 suspected family violence offenders were recorded as being possibly or definitely on drugs, while 24,787 were recorded as being possibly or definitely drunk.

Police recorded their suspicions that drugs or alcohol were involved in about one-third of family violence incidents they were called to last year.

The figures, which were extracted from the LEAP database, also show that drugs were catching up to alcohol as a suspected factor in a host of other violent or serious crimes, in which police recorded their suspicions about people being affected by drugs and alcohol.

In the past year, police recorded drugs as a factor in 3929 crimes, compared with 8198 crimes in which they recorded alcohol as a suspected factor.

The police spokeswoman said drugs were increasingly involved in “a range of crime types” in the community.

“The impact of drugs like crystalline methylamphetamine on communities is a worrying trend,” she said.

“The data provided does show an increase in the involvement of drugs in family violence incidents. However, our data on drugs doesn’t break down the type of drug identified, so we are unable to confirm how much crystalline methylamphetamine use is impacting specifically in family violence incidents.”

She added, however, that drugs and alcohol do not cause family violence.

“Alcohol and drug use exacerbates the frequency and severity of family violence, but the cause is still power, control and attitudes towards women.

“The solution to the issue is outside the scope of law enforcement intervention alone. We recognise there needs to be a co-ordinated whole of community response.”

The figures show:

  • Police believed drugs were a factor in 12 murders last year, as well as 2593 assaults, 230 sexual offences and 73 abduction and related offences.
  • Police believed alcohol was a factor in 12 murders last year, as well as 6307 assaults, 575 sexual assault offences and 57 abduction and related offences.

 

The Crime Statistics Agency cautions that the police recording of people as being drug or alcohol affected only includes those cases where police actually recorded their suspicions, meaning that “the recording of this type of data may be subjective”.

It also said that “a large amount of data” is recorded as unknown, or missing.

This piece by Bianca Hall was first seen on ‘The Age’ on November 18,2016.

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