Treating abusers as prolific offenders a success

Mounties are making a move to include domestic violence in their prolific offender management program.

Staff Sgt. Jack McNeill informed North Cowichan council of the change recently in his quarterly report.

"We have three candidates in the community who are, for a number of reasons, constantly before the courts for matters of domestic violence," he said. "We are broadening the scope of our program to try to get to the root cause of their behaviours."

These are difficult cases, he said, in response to concern from councillors.

"Domestic violence is probably the highest risk investigation we have to embark upon. The amount of safeguards on domestic violence files is enormous and properly so. As you can well imagine, after every case, everything is analyzed to see what we could have done differently.

"We need to know what’s behind it," he said.

"These are often people who probably never had good role models when they were kids. There may be poverty issues, alcohol, drugs, things of that nature. It’s a perfect storm for violence. They are not ready to cope with the stresses any kind of a relationship has," McNeill said.

"We identify these people. Sometimes it’s not a full assault. It could be threats, they could be stalking someone. There are many layers to this kind of a problem. We try to get them into treatment. Every case is on its own merit but we have two officers and a Crown counsel and even a judge who is dedicated solely to these domestic violence files. Everybody from the premier and the attorney general on down realizes this is a priority."

Const. Eric Coyne, prolific offender coordinator for the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment, said that moving certain people who’ve been involved in a lot of domestic violence into the prolific offender program has been a great success in the Valley.

The whole idea is to change the offender’s behaviour and it’s been working well.

"Last year we were working with a domestic violence client and we had the idea that, because the prolific offender program was working for property crimes and drug addicted people, that perhaps the same concept could work for our high risk domestic violence cases," he said.

"We took the concept of effecting change and worked closely with one couple for a sort of pilot project," he said. "The main difference between a regular prolific offender and a domestic violence prolific offender is that there’s a known victim. So, now, we have to bring that other person [the victim] into the equation." And beyond that, there is innovation in the program, too, he said. "There are many, many services in this province for the victims of domestic violence. But, not a lot of energy has been put into the offenders, other than incarceration, forcing them to do programs while they are in custody, forcing them to do court ordered programs when they are out of custody," Coyne said.

Doing these things just because they have to and then going on to re-offend is not a good solution so this new method is reaching offenders in a new way.

It is working "incredibly," he said.

"I can’t even begin to describe how well it works. But this is not a broad, across the board method of dealing with domestic violence," he said. "There’s just not enough time and energy for that in our days. It’s for people that are high risk, who are a high demand on our system."