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New unit dedicated to domestic violence calls making a difference, Montreal police say


A specialized unit dedicate to investigating domestic violence has been a success since it was launched eight months ago, Montreal police say.

The Section spécialisée en violence conjugale (SSVC) was formed in response to a rise in femicides and domestic violence over the past year.

So far, police are seeing the differen it's making on the ground, they told members of the media during an update Wednesday. The unit has 11 members and has handled 130 cases, including ones in which victims have been abused for years and often struggled to leave their situation.

Officers and outreach workers say the pandemic has only made it harder to escape from violent partners. Police don't have hard numbers, but say women's shelters have seen the need for help surge, partly because of isolation, increased stress, and financial struggles.

Thats partly why police created the specialized unit. Officers say the biggest difference with this approach is that victims and their children receive support from beginning to end, with regular follow up.

"Even though, right off the bat, the person doesn't necessarily decide to lay charges but the simple fact that our approach is supportive, non-judgmental, and we expose the potential community resources that are at their disposal, well that, itself, it sows a seed," said Cdr. Salvatore Serrao, of the SPVM training division.

Montreal police received more than 5,300 domestic abuse calls last year. Those mades up almost a quarter of all crimes against the person recorded on the island and nearly 14 per cent of homicides.

Jenny Charest, director-general of the Centre d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels (CAVAC) de Montréal, described it as a mutli-disciplinary unit that puts a bigger emphasis on addressing the needs of the victim, but also the accused.

"They [the police] refer to us and we make a needs assessment and we make sure that she gets all the information, all the support that she needs and … we can refer them to other resources because it's not only the CAVAC that can work with the SPVM. The shelters are working with SPVM, all kinds of different organizations," Charest said.

Last month, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in the country requiring anyone charged with domestic violence to wear an electronic GPS bracelet. The program was first announced in late 2021 and is set to roll out into every region in the province by the end of 2023.

Last year, there were 26 femicide victims in Quebec. Top Stories

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