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Domestic Violence & Criminal Harassment Unit

The Vancouver Police Department's Domestic Violence & Criminal Harassment Unit (DVACH) is comprised of two separate but complementary units, the Criminal Harassment Unit and Domestic Violence Response Teams (DVRTs), within one office and under the supervision of one sergeant.

Criminal Harassment Unit

The Criminal Harassment Unit conducts follow-up of criminal harassment cases, including cases where there is a pattern of repeated victimization and stalking behavior. The unit works proactively to identify these cases. Members of this unit provide threat assessments, as well as investigative advice to investigators, both within the Department and outside agencies.

The Criminal Harassment Unit also provides in-service training to members, recruits, members of other Departments, as well as to the public upon request when practicable.

Domestic Violence Response Teams

The DVACH currently operates three Domestic Violence Response Teams (DVRTs). Each DVRT is comprised of a police investigator and a "community counsellor" with professional qualifications in social work or a related social science, as well as experience in dealing with victims of domestic violence. The DVRTs work under the direct supervision of the DVACH Unit sergeant, and they are also accountable to an advisory committee comprised of representatives from Family Services of Greater Vancouver, the B.C. Ministry of Attorney General and other community stakeholders.

The mandate of the DVRTs is to provide prompt follow-up service to partners who are experiencing violence in their relationships. These incidents are generally referred to the Unit by Patrol Division members, but the DVRTs may also respond directly to incidents referred from other sources in extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the DVRTs will proactively identify women at risk of domestic violence and intervene wherever possible.

The goal of the DVRTs is to review all files forwarded to the Unit and to select cases for follow-up which meet the criteria of our mandate. When a DVRT is involved and charges are laid, the victims are supported throughout to trial to reduce the likelihood of the victim "dropping out" of the prosecution.

The DVRTs are not able to follow-up all cases initially investigated by patrol members because of the numbers involved. Cases are selected based on several factors, including the level of risk to the victim.

Providing education and training to Patrol Division members and to the public regarding the dynamics of domestic violence is also an important function of the DVRTs.

What is Domestic Violence?

When people talk about violence in relationships, they are usually talking about abuse. Abuse includes a range of behaviour – from intimidation and threats to physical or sexual assault. An abuser uses threats and violence to gain power and control over his or her partner and to take away their self-worth.

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, verbal or financial. Some examples of abusive behaviour:

  • humiliating or degrading you in front of others
  • isolating you or stopping you from leaving the home (including removing the phone, taking the only vehicle when you live far from town or not letting you see friends or family)
  • yelling at you, insulting you or calling you names
  • constantly criticizing and blaming you for everything
  • controlling and limiting what you do, where you go, who you see
  • threatening to hurt you, your children, someone you know, or anything that is special to you (like a pet or something you treasure)
  • frightening you by driving recklessly or threatening you with a weapon
  • breaking your things, damaging property
  • taking your money or controlling all the money in the household and not letting you have any
  • threatening to have you deported
  • opening and reading your mail or other private papers
  • following you or watching you wherever you are
  • repeatedly phoning you (for example, at work or in the middle of the night)
  • forcing you into sexual activity that you don’t want
  • shoving, slapping, choking, punching or kicking you
  • hurting you with an object of any kind

Abuse may start out as verbal or emotional and may gradually increase to physical or sexual violence. After incidents of abuse, a partner or ex-partner can seem to be very sorry or very loving.

What is Criminal Harassment?

Criminal harassment refers to threatening conduct that causes an individual to fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know. (See Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada for a legal definition of criminal harassment.) Such conduct includes:

  • repeatedly following someone from place to place
  • repeated unwanted communication, either directly or indirectly
  • watching where someone resides, works, carries on business or happens to be
  • engaging in threatening conduct towards an individual or any member of their family

Criminal harassment is a pattern of threats and actions that can frighten you and take away your feeling of self-worth. Stalking destroys your sense of security and personal safety and can lead to physical harm or even death. The stalker or harasser can be anyone: a spouse / partner, a person you lived with, someone you dated, a client, a former employee, a co-worker, a fellow student, a peer or a total stranger.

It is usually women who are stalked, but children, adolescents and men are also victims of criminal harassment.

You may be dealing with criminal harassment if you feel that:

  • your emotional or physical safety is being threatened
  • you can't do what you want or go where you want
  • you've changed your lifestyle to avoid this person

You may be dealing with criminal harassment if you are concerned, worried or afraid because someone is:

  • threatening you, your children, grandchildren, family or friends
  • following you, your children, grandchildren, family or friends
  • waiting and watching or tracking you, your children, grandchildren or others close to you
  • threatening or damaging your property or pets
  • calling you repeatedly, hanging up or not speaking when you answer
  • calling your children, grandchildren, family, friends or co-workers and asking about you
  • sending you things you don't want

Report Domestic Violence or Criminal Harassment

If you are a victim of domestic violence or criminal harassment, you are urged to call 911 if you are in a dangerous or threatening situation.

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