Police called to 3,000 more family abuse cases last year
Joshua But and Polly Hui
Commissioner reports 60pc rise in domestic violence calls
An average of 20 family abuse reports is filed every day, the police chief has revealed, reporting a worsening situation with almost 3,000 more cases seen last year than in the previous year.
The annual crime statistics showed that domestic violence cases topped 7,509 last year - a 60 per cent increase from 2006 - of which criminal acts such as intimidation, assault and property damage contributed a third of the offences.
Police Commissioner Tang King-shing said the drastic increase was recorded shortly after they issued a new set of guidelines for frontline officers handling cases of abuse in late 2006.
Monthly figures ranged from between 530 and 670 cases for most of last year.
'The situation has definitely worsened when we have 3,000 more cases,' Mr Tang said, adding that most of the cases involved disputes over money and family relationships.
'The police cannot solve the problem alone, and most of the time we get to the tragedies only after they have happened.'
He said the force would review the guidelines this year to look at their effectiveness in increasing the sensitivity and accuracy of officers in dealing with domestic violence cases.
A sergeant-ranked officer would be in charge of each case to ensure constables were following the guidelines, Mr Tang said. That officer would also assess if the case should be referred to the Social Welfare Department.
He said the new police guidelines might have exposed some hidden cases.
'The public are gaining a better understanding of domestic violence, and are more confident that our officers and other government departments can assist them,' Mr Tang said.
Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, director of Against Child Abuse, said despite the drastic increase, the reported cases represented only the tip of the iceberg. She said the trend matched the surge in child abuse crime rates recently recorded by the Census and Statistics Department.
'As the economy is improving, the government should deploy more resources to domestic violence cases, especially in hiring professionals such as social workers and clinical psychologists,' she said.
'Many of the families in the cases did not receive sufficient support from the professionals and their cases kept going back to the police as a result.'
Meanwhile, the overall crime figure dipped slightly, by 0.4 per cent to 80,796 last year. Murders reached a 30-year-low of 18 cases, while burglary cases, numbering 4,512, were the fewest since 1976.
But the commissioner revealed a 30 per cent increase in serious narcotics offences last year. A total of 3,531 drug offenders were arrested, of which nearly 80 per cent were involved in psychotropic substances.
'We are alerted to such a high proportion and are very concerned about the number of youngsters involved in such crimes,' Mr Tang said.
He said 922 juveniles were arrested for narcotics-related offences, double the figure for 2006.
Police would step up recruitment of 105 inspectors and 250 constables in 2008-09. Deputy commissioner for management Tsang Wai-hung said the force would require 3,800 auxiliary police during the Olympics.
He said the police would not force the officers to cancel their holidays during the equestrian events from July to September. 'It is up to the district commanders to give permission for holidays, given they fulfil the manpower requirements.'