Police tackle family violence like never before

POLICE family violence units in Wodonga and Wangaratta aim to break the cycle of domestic violence in a way never seen before in the North East.

The two three-officer units, part of a state-wide roll-out in busy 24-hour stations, are dedicated to working with repeat offenders and their victims to change behaviours.

It’s a change from the traditional response, which was uniform police responding to family violence as it occurs with those officers unable to get time to follow-up or have consistent contact.

Uniform police will still be the first responders to incidents, but now they’ll be able to pass on cases to the unit.

“We’ve got time to go out and speak to these people to put in strategies to stop reoffending or linking up to services,” Wangaratta unit Sgt Stephen Beavis said.

“It’s going to significantly increase the ability to target recidivist offenders and hold them accountable for their behaviour and have in place appropriate support for women and children.”

Wangaratta’s unit will target 30 repeat offenders across the Alpine, Moira and Wangaratta regions, while Wodonga focuses on 13.

In the past week the Wangaratta unit has arrested four people, while in Wodonga a repeat offender was given six months’ jail on Monday for breaching intervention orders.

Wodonga unit Sgt Tony Chamberlain said the units were crucial given a third of the jobs police responded to were family violence-related.

He said Wodonga averaged 40 incidents a month, but that could climb to 60, and on Monday night, police responded to four cases.

And it’s only going to increase with reported family violence steadily increasing statewide.

Fellow Wodonga unit officer Sen-Constable Jaclyn Warchow said it would send a clear message to people who abused their loved ones.

“It’s not going to be tolerated,” she said.

A unit has been operating in Shepparton since December 2011 and in its first nine months, reports of family violence doubled.

Sgt John Huntington has been Wangaratta’s family violence advisor for the past 10 years.

He’ll continue to assist the new units and for someone now seeing children once victims grow up to become offenders, he’s hopeful it will break the cycle.

“These guys are going to be fantastic,” Sgt Huntington said.

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