SINGAPORE: Police reports related to family violence have increased by 22 per cent since the beginning of the "circuit breaker" period in April, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Thursday (May 14).
From Apr 7 to May 6, 476 police reports were filed for offences associated with family violence, such as hurt, criminal force and assault, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.
SPF said it takes a serious view of such cases and will continue to take action against those who abuse their family members.
More steps will also be taken to increase support for victims of family violence, SPF said in a news release.
Currently, the police refer victims of family violence to the nearest Family Service Centre or the Family Violence Specialist Centre if they ask for social assistance.
Victims who request shelter are referred to one of the four crisis shelters funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
To step up protection, the police will help such victims even if no requests for assistance or shelter are made.
"Specifically, we will assess the victims’ risks of encountering further family violence, and proactively refer those assessed to be at higher risk to social services, to ensure that they receive the help they need," SPF said.
A number of factors will be considered when making these assessments, including the profiles of their offenders and the nature of violence inflicted.
Apart from referring higher-risk victims to the agencies, SPF said it will watch over the victims closely. For example, within the first week of lodging the police report, SPF will contact the victims to check on them and find out if they need further assistance.
The police will also support family violence offenders via the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme.
"To break the cycle of family violence, the root causes that led to the offenders committing violence on their family members also need to be addressed," SPF said.
Under the scheme, which started as a pilot at the Bedok Police Division last year, the police refer offenders to social workers who will assess whether their underlying issues need to be addressed through means such as counselling, mental health and financial assistance, and refer the offenders to suitable agencies for help.
All Police Land Divisions are now able to refer offenders whom they are investigating for family violence.
"This will ensure that offenders who need social assistance are referred earlier to avenues for help," SPF added.
READ: COVID-19: MSF keeping 'close watch' on domestic abuse cases as more reach out for help over circuit breaker period
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said she is concerned about the increase in the number of family violence incidents reported to the police.
"Worldwide trends show that stress and social isolation caused by Covid-19 could lead to more cases of family violence," she added.
On Tuesday, Ms Sun posted a Facebook video on recognising the signs of family violence.
"You can be someone’s saviour, someone’s hero. Look out for signs of family violence. Victims can be a relative, a neighbour, a child your child knows from school," she said.
Ms Sun said there can be many reasons as to why victims do not ask for assistance or shelter, but the police will take these enhanced measures to better protect them.
She also appealed to the community to look out for signs of family violence and report their suspicions to ensure help is given to the victim as soon as possible.
"The simple act of reporting can help save someone’s life or prevent further suffering," Ms Sun said.