Severity of domestic violence up in Edmonton during 2020: police

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The most severe kinds of domestic violence rose in Edmonton last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, police said Thursday.

There were 34 domestic violence incidents involving firearms in 2020, predominantly handguns, which is a 54 per cent increase from 22 in 2019, according to police data. Knives were used against 155 victims, and aggressors used a substance to burn 35 victims, up 25 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively, from the year before. There were four domestic homicides in 2020 and two in 2019.

Insp. Sean Armstrong with the Edmonton Police Service serious crimes branch said while the total number of assaults against these victims went down, the number of serious assaults causing bodily harm or with a weapon grew significantly — 32 per cent.

“This unsettling trend includes one of the most serious forms of violence, that being strangulation. Being strangled can cause a lifetime of physical and emotional damage for victims, and in the dire situations can cause them their life,” he said during a media availability over Zoom Thursday.

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Sgt. Alexa Simpson said social media is being used more for criminal harassment, with perpetrators threatening to post photos of victims online. She also said officers were recently “paying more attention” to perpetrators threatening to harm pets in family-violence scenarios.

Armstrong said it’s part of aggressors’ desire to get power and control — whether that be financially, emotionally, or physically — by threatening or abusing children or pets.

“When a perpetrator starts to lose control of their life and other aspects, maybe it’s a job loss … there’s that tendency to grab control where they can, and that can be over their family, their spouse,” he said.

“I would venture that maybe why we’re seeing some of that increases is because people are feeling that loss of control, and they’re grabbing it otherwise by using those threats and intimidation of physical force upon their victims

Overall, there were 1,139 more domestic violence calls, increasing to 9,545 from 8,406 in 2019.

Clare’s Law, which allows Albertans to request information about a partner’s history and risk of violence without them knowing, came into effect April 1.

Domestic violence can be reported by calling 911 in an emergency, or by calling 211 and speaking with a social worker. Information about women’s shelters can be found at acws.ca.

lboothby@postmedia.com

@laurby

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