Original article from Kent Live
Police are carrying out unannounced welfare checks on people at risk of domestic violence in Kent after a spike in cases.
Officers said the pandemic saw a huge 9.3% increase across the county and are finding new ways to protect victims.
In Kent an additional 3,233 offences were recorded between 2019 and 2020.
Meanwhile Matthew Scott, Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has launched an anonymous survey to gauge how safe women and girls feel in the county.
The aim is to provide a picture of violence, abuse, harassment and stalking levels in Kent.
'Domestic abuse is underreported'
Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Pritchard, Head of Protecting Vulnerable People at Kent Police, said the increase can be seen positively as more people are coming forward.
He said: "Despite an additional 3,233 offences being recorded between 2019 and 2020, domestic abuse remains under-reported and we therefore welcome any increase as it shows more victims are having the confidence to come forward and seek help.
"The increase last year can also largely be attributed to the start of the pandemic, which saw victims and perpetrators spending more time at home with each other.
"Recognising that some victims may have felt unable to seek help during this time, we pioneered the use of ‘hidden harm visits’ where officers made unannounced welfare checks on those identified as being at particular risk of domestic abuse and this has since become business as usual."
Kent Police have also been carrying out a 'rapid video response' trial to engage quickly with victims if the perpetrator is not at the scene and they are calling about a non-crime incident or asking for advice.
According to DCS Pritchard, this has proven a highly effective way of supporting victims without them having to wait for an available patrol to attend.
Kent Police also have specialist domestic abuse officers whose role is to raise awareness of the types of offences committed, carry out welfare calls to victims and to help find a place to live for those seeking refuge.
DCS Pritchard said: "There have been a number of high profile cases recently that have led to a renewed focus on tackling violence against women and girls that we welcome.
"However, it is important to remember that this is sadly not a new phenomenon and is something we at Kent Police have always taken very seriously."
Kent Police will be working with the Police and Crime Commissioner in their role as member of the Kent and Medway Domestic Abuse Multi-Agency Strategic Group, to translate the Government's recently-published national strategy into an improved offer of support for victims in Kent.
The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy calls for people to come forward with evidence about domestic abuse rates in the country.
The aim of the strategy is to engage with and listen to those with lived experience of or views on violence against women and girls, those with expertise in working with victims and survivors, those involved in preventative activity, in providing services, and the communities and organisations affected by these crimes.
Over the next three months Kent PCC, Matthew Scott, will meet with victims, representatives from Kent Police, local authorities, charities and support groups, MPs and government representatives to try to understand the experiences of those who’ve suffered, in order to improve provision in Kent.
A report with recommendations is due to be published in the new year.
He said: "Violence against women and girls remains one of the challenges of our time. As a society we have to come together to address it.
"There have been powerful and tragic examples recently, both locally and nationally, and the need for action on this is crucial. I want to see how we can improve the journey for victims and survivors in this county.
"In Kent we already have a lot of good work going on, from police work to that provided by our partners and commissioned charitable services, so let’s pull together and find out if we can make things better.
"I want to publish a meaningful report with tangible recommendations which will help us address this serious issue.”
DCS Pritchard stressed that victims are encouraged to come forward so Kent Police can investigate the offences committed against them and help to rebuild their lives .
Support for those experiencing domestic violence in Kent can be found at https://www.domesticabuseservices.org.uk/