POLICE are targeting the most prolific perpetrators of domestic abuse, regardless of whether the victim has officially reported an incident, in a radical new approach to stopping such violence.
Officers spearheading the pro-active method are working closely with Assist, the expert advocacy and support service for victims of domestic abuse, on information-sharing and how to approach victims and perpetrators.
Victims can give information to Assist without making a complaint to the police. The most dangerous offenders are then identified and tackled jointly by the service and the police.
Chief Superintendent Bob Hamilton of Strathclyde Police said: "We're working to anticipate and prevent. If we know that someone is going to rob a bank we would not sit and wait for them to do it. We would use surveillance and covert methods to stop it.
"We need to do the same with domestic abuse. We can't just sit back and wait for it to happen. Violence and domestic abuse are not inevitable. We're working to stop the victim becoming a victim in the first place.
"In 2010/11 there were 10 domestic abuse homicides in Strathclyde. In the past year we reduced that to three. In the past year we had 66 fewer victims of serious violent crimes.
"We're looking at being right in the face of perpetrators and arresting them for any crime – whether it be road traffic offences or otherwise.
"If there is nothing on enforcement we can go down the civil route, looking with our partners at, for example, complaints from neighbours about noise. If we can lock them up for a particular crime, that gives Assist the opportunity to go in. Assist and Women's Aid had a lot of information about what was happening with these victims, but a lot of victims didn't want to report to the police.
"The tasking takes place fortnightly and the selection of perpetrators is based on recency, frequency and gravity of offending. We also now give lists of named individuals who pose the most significant threat to the divisional commanders to give them ownership of reducing and preventing their offending behaviour."
There are 226 high-level domestic abusers across Strathclyde committing 30 to 40 offences a year.
The reoffending rate for perpetrators is between 62% and 65%. However, the 450 people targeted by the new approach from Strathclyde Police and Assist had reoffending rates reduced to 35 to 37%.
Mhairi McGowan, the head of Assist, said the system had let the service tackle perpetrators who may have assaulted their victims for decades or abused multiple partners.
"When we looked at what was happening and looked at the research we realised we needed to do something different and that's what we've done," she said.
"Before we speak to anyone we explain that we share information with the police and social work. The organisation now is so positive about partnership working. We go on joint visits with the police and ensure the victims can feel totally supported."
The Scottish Government has just increased funding to Assist from £800,000 to £1 million.
Strathclyde Police feel the approach is so effective they want to give £1m more to Assist to roll out the scheme from its Glasgow focus to the whole of Strathclyde.
Deputy Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan said: "This works because of the effectiveness of all the different components, including the domestic abuse court, the procurators fiscal, police, Women's Aid and Assist."
He added: "This model works. There is no place in Scotland that does not have domestic abuse. We accept there may not be gangs in Dingwall but they do have domestic abuse. This model could work for the whole country."