SUPPORT workers in Sunderland will join police on domestic violence call-outs in a UK first.
Staff from charity Wearside Women in Need will be on patrol with Northumbria officers in some of the city’s attack hot spots in a bid to crack down on wife beaters.
From today, officers in the Washington area will also carry cameras to record crime scenes and gather evidence.
Each day, five women on Wearside suffer abuse at the hands of their partners.
During the past two years, 3,757 arrests have been made by police investigating domestic violence in Sunderland.
Northumbria Police and the domestic violence charity Wearside Women in Need are joining forces to tackle the problem.
The specially-trained team will go to all reports of domestic violence on Friday and Saturday nights in Concord and Sulgrave.
The two areas are being targeted as part of a pilot project, which runs until January, after being flagged up as problem areas by officers.
If successful, it could be rolled out across the city, and the country.
Washington Neighbourhood Inspector Paul Stewart believes the camera technology will lead to more successful court prosecutions.
He said: “Officers will activate the cameras when they walk into the scene and capture what is happening at the time – any damage, injuries and what is being said by the victim and the offender.
“This is especially useful for victims to make complaints and if we need to bring victimless prosecutions.”
However, Clare Phillipson, from Wearside Women in Need, believes improvements are still needed in the UK’s legal system to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
She said: “The trouble is, the courts are still our biggest problem. It was in the news that a man was given 16 weeks for punching his pregnant girlfriend, who lost the baby, and that man was given a year for punching a police horse.
“The courts value horses over pregnant women and unborn babies.
“We still have a long way to go with the courts.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, has been the driving force behind the initiative and helped fund the scheme, along with Northumbria Police, as part of the Safer Sunderland Partnership.
She said: “This is a very important issue to me and one I’m taking an active personal lead in.
“Domestic abuse is still a hidden crime, but I hope this new initiative goes a long way to helping victims find a voice to stand up against the crime by talking not only to the police, but Wearside Women In Need also, particularly when an incident has just happened.”
Chairman of Safer Sunderland, Councillor Harry Trueman, added: “It is still a very underground crime, which people are frightened to report, because they might still love their partners.
“It is very difficult to bring to the fore, but good on Wearside Women in Need and the police for taking the initiative.”
Independent and confidential advice is available to victims 24-hours a day on 0800 066 5555.