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Domestic violence is at 'epidemic' levels, says police chief

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"IF THE same number of victims who suffer from sexualised or domestic violence had flu, it would be called a flu epidemic. There is an epidemic."

Those were the words of the borough commander David Musker at a meeting with councillors last Tuesday to discuss what types of crime Croydon was facing,

"I have been banging this drum for years – we must do something about domestic violence, it is on the increase," he said.

Reported incidents of domestic violence resulting in injury were up from 920 in 2011/12 to 1,043 in 2012/13 – a 13.4 per cent rise.

The Chief Superintendent has framed tackling the crime as "murder suppression" to the Advertiser in the past – citing that 80 per cent of murders are by committed by someone who is known to the victim.

"When there was spate of murders, we spent a lot of time interviewing people connected to the crimes and they disproportionately had histories of sexualised violence and domestic violence in their families," he said.

"They also often had siblings by different fathers and could have been arrested for the first time by the age of 11.

"This is not to say in any way that people who experience this in their childhood will turn to violent crimes but it does mean that early intervention – in schools, in family support, and enforcement by the police – is crucial."

Leslie Roberts, who runs the council's gang strategy, said there was a "huge connection" between domestic violence and gangs.

"Often children fall into gangs when protective factors crumble, when things happen one after another and they cannot cope," she said.

"Early intervention and family support is very important."

She also noted that high levels of gang crime mirrored areas of deprivation.

Monique Rebeiro, who runs Lives Not Knives, an anti-violence charity, said their projects in schools highlighted the vulnerability of children to crime.

She said: "You often don't know what these children are up against – it can be really scary to see what situation kids find themselves in.

"Violence between children is on the rise and children using violence against their own parents is also going up."

Ms Rebeiro also said violence among children could exacerbate Croydon's gang culture.

"A lot of teachers are not even aware of gangs outside the classroom," she explained.

"When we talk about gangs in Croydon, there is a danger we will start having a second generation.

"We have not had gangs for as long as other boroughs but now many members are parents with children at school.

"Teachers are asking us to go into schools to deliver programmes to kids from the age of seven."

Another factor highlighted by Ms Rebeiro was the number of girls involved in gangs and boys using girls in gang crimes.

According to the Safer London Foundation, which runs its Empower project in Croydon, "as a girlfriend, relative or friend, young women are in danger of serious sexual abuse, including rape and coercion to commit criminal offences such as carrying weapons or drugs."

Ms Roberts said the Met did not include girls in their gang matrix – a tally of members throughout London.

However, she said the council were working on strategies to reduce domestic violence and sexual violence against girls.

Domestic violence is  at 'epidemic'  levels, says  police chief


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