Stats show high rate of domestic violence in Abbotsford-Mission

But local police say the numbers released by Statistics Canada can be deceiving

Abbotsford-Mission has been ranked fourth in Canada and second in the province for reported domestic violence rates.

But local police are not sure if those figures should be interpreted as negative.

The information released last week by Statistics Canada is for 2010 and is based on Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), not individual municipalities.

According to the report, Abbotsford-Mission had 566 victims of family violence in 2010, which translates to a rate of 325 victims per 100,000 population.

That puts the area in fourth spot behind Saint John, NB with a rate of 420 victims per 100,000 population; Saskatoon, Sask. (351); and Kelowna, B.C. (346).

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said while the police are interested in statistics, they are more concerned with people.

“It’s not necessarily a badge of honour to have lower numbers. You can’t make that logical conclusion.”

He said the real challenge is to encourage people to report the incidents and bring out more victims to take a stand against abuse.

“After we created our domestic violence unit, for example, we saw an increase in domestic violence files,” explained MacDonald.

The police know there is “under-reporting” in two major family violence categories – domestic violence and sex offences – and MacDonald said the challenge is to convince people that reporting it is the right thing to do.

“Our objective is not to reduce domestic violence reports. It’s to eliminate domestic violence. And I see those two things as completely different.”

MacDonald also questioned how the StatsCan report established the number of victims.

“There is absolutely no resemblance to what we have statistically.”

According to local police statistics, Abbotsford had 784 reported incidents of family violence in 2010, more than the 566 stated in the report, and that doesn’t include Mission.

In 2011, Abbotsford had 647 reports, a decrease of 18 per cent.

MacDonald said the discrepancy is likely due to the fact local police may include more cases under the umbrella of “family violence.”

He said violence in relationships can include ex-girlfriends and boyfriends, which have no real family ties.

“That may be excluded by StatCan, but included by us.”