Domestic violence involving weapons jumps 70% in Calgary, police cite economy as factor

Investigators say there is a 'connection' between increased unemployment and increased domestic conflict

CBC News Posted: May 18, 2016 1:26 PM MT Last Updated: May 18, 2016 4:10 PM MT

Domestic violence is becoming more common and more severe in Calgary, a problem police believe is likely related to the economic downturn.

Police received 3,282 calls about domestic violence in 2015, marking a 10 per cent increase from the year before.

Domestic assaults involving weapons, specifically, increased by 70 per cent over 2014, according to police data.

"I do want to stress that unemployment is not a cause of domestic violence, but it is one of many stressors," Staff Sgt. Rob Davidson of the domestic conflict unit told reporters.

He said issues around power and control, addictions, anger and exposure to violence can be exasperated by unemployment.

"In no way does it excuse it," Davidson said.

There were 14,678 domestic conflict calls, in total, in 2015.

Of those, 77 per cent of were verbal altercations that escalated or requests for police to be there as a partner moved out of a home.

Physical violence was involved in 17 per cent of all calls last year.

Experts say the nature of domestic conflict can vary but violence rarely occurs in isolated incidents.

"Healthy relationships should be based on equality, respect, open communication and boundaries," said Maggie MacKillop, executive director of Homefront, a non-profit agency that assists families dealing with domestic violence.

As soon as police lay charges, Homefront is involved. It supports about 5,000 people each year.

Police said the vast majority of domestic conflict victims were women, but approximately one in five were men.

Anyone experiencing violence in their home or concerned their situation could escalate is encouraged to reach out for support, including calling the police.

Calgary police believe there is a correlation between domestic violence and the unemployment rate. (Calgary Police Service)