Police recorded an average of six cases of criminal domestic violence every day in the first three months of the year, new crime figures show.
The number of such cases increased from 482 between January and March last year to 571 this year - a rise of 18.5 per cent. The criminal acts involved intimidation, wounding and assault, police said, and accounted for nearly half of all cases of domestic violence.
Police break down domestic violence into two categories: crimes and miscellaneous cases, such as family arguments. Overall, there was a 29.2 per cent drop to 1,186 cases in the first three months, compared with 1,675 in the same period last year.
Criminal intimidation arising from family disputes accounted for most of the criminal cases of domestic violence. A police source gave examples: 'A man threatens to kill his wife with a chopper, or to set a fire so they will die together, during an argument.'
Paulina Kwok Chi-ying, a supervisor with the Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre, said she feared a further increase in such cases as the economic crisis increased the stresses on families.
'Because of the economic crisis, people will run into financial problems. This could lead to more family disputes,' she said. 'As they lose control of themselves, arguments can turn into violence.'
People were increasingly less tolerant nowadays and prepared to take a firm stand, which might lead to more domestic violence, she said.
Ms Kwok stressed that violence was not the solution to problems and that people should learn to control their tempers.
'They should calm down during a dispute and talk to their spouses to find the best solution. If necessary, they should seek help from social workers.'
A Social Welfare Department spokesman said: 'We understand that some families may face great pressure as a result of the economic downturn. To further support families in need and victims of domestic violence, the government has provided an additional HK$25 million in the current financial year to increase the number of social workers and clinical psychologists dealing with domestic violence.' The department would also further develop programmes to prevent domestic violence and strengthen support for crisis centres and refuge centres for women, he said.
A total of 7,285 people affected by the economic crisis have sought help through two 24-hour emotional-support hotlines between October 13 and Monday. People can call the Cease Crisis Centre hotline at 2454 8800 or the Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre at 3162 3030 for help.
The police statistics showed that, overall, there was an increase in crime of 1.7 per cent, to 19,236 cases, in the first three months. The number of deceptions rose by 23.8 per cent to 1,281, shop thefts were up 17.7 per cent to 2,659 and pickpocketing cases increased 8.2 per cent to 304.
Thefts from vehicles increased by 41.7 per cent, to 598, while instances of criminal intimidation rose by 33.9 per cent to 573. The number of juveniles aged 10 to 15 who were arrested increased by 14.8 per cent to 1,289, from 1,123 last year.