Domestic violence issues need more attention: advocate
WINNIPEG -- It's one of the reasons for Winnipeg's near record number of homicides this year but advocates are concerned domestic violence isn't getting enough attention.
Zita Somakoko, a domestic violence survivor and organizer of a community forum called ‘Breaking the Silence on Domestic Violence,’ pointed to high numbers of calls to police and recent homicides as a reason to take action.
"How many more people must die before we wake up?” said Somakoko. “How can we not be concerned as a human being and just common citizens?"
In 2018, domestic violence was the number one reason police were dispatched to calls from the public.
Officers responded to more than 16,000 domestic calls for service -- a number that rose steadily over a five-year period.
It’s an issue Somakoko said isn't getting enough attention in the conversation about crime in the city -- one that has focused largely on methamphetamine and gang violence.
She points to the recent death of three-year-old Hunter Straight-Smith who was stabbed in his sleep. Winnipeg police said the accused, Daniel Jensen, 33, was in an on-again, off-again relationship with the boy's mother.
So far in 2019 Winnipeg has hit 40 homicides, two shy of breaking the all-time record.
The police chief has previously said about a third of the homicides this year involve methamphetamine or gangs and acknowledged late last month another factor which can't be forgotten.
"The other area that is not really getting the attention because of the meth is just domestic violence in general,” said Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth in an interview on Oct. 28. “That has an impact and we always have a number of domestic-related homicides."
Winnipeg police weren't available for an on camera interview Friday but in an email, officers said domestic violence calls are assigned a high priority. Calls involving breaches of protection orders receive an even higher priority.
Police said there are domestic violence investigators in all areas of the city as well as general patrol units that handle the bulk of those calls. Calls police said they've been able to handle amid a rash of violent and property crime issues that prompted a number of frontline officers to be reassigned.
Somakoko hopes to steer the conversation towards what can be done to prevent domestic violence. Discussions she said need to involve police, the government and community members.
"Clearly domestic violence is still an issue in our province. It should be all hands on deck," said Somakoko.
"It's a pandemic issue. Why aren't we taking a pandemic-approach dealing with this matter?"