Speaking exclusively to Virgin Islands News Online (VINO), Commissioner of Police, Mr Michael B. Matthews says the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) is getting calls for more domestic-related incidents than anything else as a result of the 24/7 COVID-19 lockdown but it doesn't necessarily mean there is an increase in domestic violence cases in the Territory at this time.
The Territory has been on a 24/7 extended curfew as a measure to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus since Saturday, April 4, 2020, and it will run until April 16, 2020.
"It is correct that apart from curfew enforcement my officers are receiving calls to domestic-related incidents rather than anything else, but no particular ‘spike’ at this stage," CoP Matthews told VINO on inquiry following media reports that there was a spike in local domestic violence reports.
He said while reports of heightened violence amongst couples are not necessarily correct and figures are average, arguments remain the top incident reports followed by a couple of minor assaults recorded by the RVIPF.
Exercise restraint - CoP Matthews
"I think we all recognise the potential strain on families and friends being locked down together but we must all exercise restraint and find ways to avoid conflict and get along," he told this news website.
With each report, RVIPF officers would have to respond to cases, thereby putting themselves at risk of COVID-19, even as the Territory has not received reports of community transmission of the virus today.
"Please do not use up valuable police resources responding to minor arguments and try and resolve your differences without resorting to anything physical," the Commissioner of Police urged.
Behavioural Health Coordinator at D. Orlando Smith Hospital, Ms Crystal A. K. Estridge recently told VINO that the lockdown would have psychological effects on people.
“Not only will many be anxious, but some may also likely become depressed and feel hopeless. Others may turn to alcohol and other substances to cope or engage in other negative coping behaviours. Isolation may prove difficult for some, while others may have a hard time based on family dynamics at home.”
She recommended that the Government place more emphasis on the implications of the pandemic on the mental well-being of individuals.
Addressing the Territory on April 6, 2020, Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) said it’s a small pocket of persons engaging in domestic violence around this time and singled out the men as the primary culprits.
“I want to speak to you my brothers directly. You must stop it. Stop it. This cannot be. You cannot be abusing our females, it is wrong. You cannot be abusing our children; it is wrong,” said Premier Fahie, while adding, “God did not put you in the role where you are to be abusive. You are there to build stronger homes and stronger families, not to be a stronger monster. This type of behaviour will not be tolerated,” Hon Fahie cautioned.