Domestic violence leads crime surge

Samoa's crime rate has surged this year, despite state of emergency restrictions on public activity - an increase being led by a 40 per cent increase in domestic violence cases. 

Certain categories of crime were driving an overall average increase of 13 per cent in the crime rate, Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil told the Samoa Observer in a telephone interview yesterday. 

"Domestic violence increased by 40 per cent," the Commissioner said.

"Traffic only increased 9 per cent."

The Commissioner said that, the increase in crimes over the first four months of this year, comes on the heels of figures showing that arrests across the country were already increasing across the country. In Upolu arrests had increased 7 per cent and by 15 per cent in Savai'i during the course of 2019. 

More recently, since the beginning of the state of emergency, the Police have received an average of 37 calls per day, the Commissioner said. 

“And we’re not capturing everything; this is probably most of it but not everything," he said. 

Since the state of emergency being imposed last month the Police have received a total of 880 calls, 313 of which involved crimes requiring a Police investigation, the Police said. Of those 196 were general crimes such as burglary, theft and robbery; a total of 60 cases were for domestic violence and 57 for traffic incidents.

The remaining cases - 567 - involved cases such as drinking in public which didn't warrant formal investigation. 

“So these are the ones that we actually have on investigations or we end up arresting someone over these 313 cases or we have an active file going on, the Commissioner said. 

Of the Police's activate investigations, some 63 percent are classified as general crimes; 19 percent are domestic violence; and 18 percent are traffic related, the Commissioner said.

The President of the Samoa Victim Support Group, Siliniu Lina Chang, has previously warned about the risk of domestic violence and further abuse on girls and women during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. 

However, she has added that the increase of domestic violence cases is a risk in every context. 

Ms. Chang added that the lockdown is an opportunity to isolate the victims with the perpetrators away from the service providers that could help them. 

"Based on what we have seen and the cases we have come across, domestic violence comes in different forms," she said.

"It means women are not only affected but also men and the children are all involved. 

"We urge members of the public to contact our Helpline: 800 7874 when they are in need of assistance." 

Siliniu added that these are difficult times where there is panic around families struggling financially:

"We have counselors and a response team on standby to assist families."

Fuiavailiili urged Samoa to stay safe and cooperative especially in this time of the global pandemic.

The Spotlight Initiative, a global project to end violence against women and girls, was launched in March with T$10.6 million allocated to Samoa with the aim of ending violence in the home.

* Adel Fruean contributed reporting to this story.

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