Despite having their office doors closed for a few months last year, Cold Lake Victim Services did almost as many callouts in 2020 as their record-breaking year in 2019.
When taking a look at the annual stats from the past year, Victim Services conducted 1100 referrals from the RCMP in 2019, which fell to 1037 in 2020.
“We dropped 63 files from the previous years. However, I think what affected us was the initial lockdown, so our file counts were really low for March and April. But then things started picking up,” said Victim Services program manager Dave Zimmerman.
“We stopped going on call outs, following the RCMP’s lead in terms of calling out because usually what they would do, they would call us out to the hospital, or to help them out with sudden death, or go to the person’s residence,” he said.
“When the RCMP would call us on the on-call phone, they would ask us to do the immediate follow-up. Unfortunately, we weren’t doing our follow up in person, but as soon as we were given permission from the RCMP we would do it over the phone.”
Most calls domestic violence and sudden deaths
Cold Lake Victim Services did the most callouts on domestic violence and sudden deaths in a year in 2020.
“We had some horrific sudden deaths this year, especially motor vehicle-related,” said Zimmerman.
Sudden deaths rose by 89 per cent–from 28 to 53.
In previous years, domestic and family violence referrals are the most common that Victim Services attends to, which rose in 2020.
There were 541 domestic and family violence calls in 2020, up roughly 9 per cent.
“We’re in a pandemic, so people are spending more time at home and stuff like that and there’s always that possibility of things going on in the home,” said Zimmerman.
“We’ll do referrals to, let’s say, the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre, Dragonfly [Counselling Centre], Cold Lake and District FCSS, if it’s something that someone can help them directly.
“But we’ll make sure that they get the support, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s any referral that’s in our area, we’ll some kind of counselling services.”
Robberies were also up 250 per cent.
However, some areas of violent crime referrals went down.
Victim Services had almost half as many as sexual assault-related referrals than in 2019 and break and enters were also down 59 per cent.
The office has been closed since mid-November for a second round of closures, but they continue to provide services for those who find themselves victims of crime.
“Victim Services is there to support family members and help them out and walk them through supports, and get referrals to those agencies. Whatever we can do to help.”