A suspiciously low number of domestic violence court cases in West Vancouver doesn't mean the community is immune from the problem.
Instead, it points to a troubling lack of information on the true extent of relationship violence, says a justice-monitoring group.
The North Shore Family Court and Youth Justice Committee reported to council on Monday night that 50 per cent of domestic violence court cases in 2011 were from North Vancouver. In contrast, just 10 per cent of the cases were from West Vancouver. Squamish, whose population of about 15,000 falls far short of West Vancouver's 42,000, had 16 per cent of the cases.
The breakdown has been similar over the past three years. said committee members Tina McCabe, who co-ordinates the statisticsgathering court-watch program. With an absence of data on the problem, committee members can only speculate why the number of cases are so much lower.
"One of the theories is that there's non-reporting. . . . Another theory is that matters proceed by way of family court in Supreme Court, rather than the police being involved and it being a criminal matter," said McCabe, explaining that restraining orders and exclusive occupancy of the family home are some ways family court might deal with domestic violence.
The committee will be tackling the problem this year with a research project that will collect both hard numbers and anecdotal information from police and social service agencies, using tools like surveys and information sharing agreements.
To gather the data, the committee will be working with the West Vancouver Police Department's family violence co-ordinator - a police officer specially trained to identify domestic violence - and agencies like Hollyburn Family Services, which provides support for victims of relationship abuse.
Across all municipalities, the number of cases which are reported to police and actually make their way through the court system represent only a small number of domestic violence situations, said Surjeet Sidhu, who co-ordinates the North Shore Violence Against Women in Relationships Committee.