Just before midnight on Friday May 26, Tatiana Dokhotaru made a distress call to the NSW police, reporting an assault in her home.
Whether an instance of domestic violence incident or a breaking-and-entering crime, the call should have been attended to immediately, for Ms Dokhotaru’s safety.
The call operator instead classified the call as a ‘priority three’, meaning officers did not attend her Liverpool apartment for another three hours.
Ms Dokhotaru had been unable to give the operator her exact address before running out of battery on her phone, so police were unable to locate her inside the block of 297 apartments, yet it is unknown what their efforts were to try and find her.
20 hours later, at 8pm on Saturday, police were called back to the apartment to investigate an alleged domestic violence dispute, reported by a worried neighbour.
It was only then that Ms Dokhotaru’s body was found.
Unfortunately, this is just the most recent in a slew of delayed police responses to domestic, family, and intimate partner violence cases.
At the beginning of the year, the body of Lindy Lucena was found behind a building in Ballina, where police had been called to a report of a woman being “bashed,” by a man, just hours earlier.
Despite the town’s police station being located only 600 metres from the scene, officers did not arrive until 55 minutes after the call and did not find any trace of the incident.
Later that night, a man led officers by foot to Ms Lucena’s body – only one street away from where they had investigated.
Both of these cases led to the arrest of a current or former partner, who had previous charges of domestic violence and had breached an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).
The rate of re-offending is high, with over 2000 repeat offenders in NSW charged in 2022, who had been charged for prior domestic violence incidents within the previous 12 months. Over 20,000 perpetrators had also been charged for a breach of AVO, according to BOSCAR.
This means that a significant number of offenders are already known to police, and urgency should be placed on responding to these cases.
In early 2023, the NSW Government launched ‘Operation Amarok’, an initiative to target high-risk domestic violence offenders. Following its success, a second operation was conducted in April.
A total of 644 people were charged with serious offences in the four-day blitz, 314 of which were among NSW’s most dangerous domestic violence offenders, the government reported.
“The NSW Government will support police to address domestic violence from all angles – from victim support, diverse reporting options and educating the public, to operations such as Amarok which target the most violent offenders,” said Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley.
While Operation Amarok II helped to get dangerous offenders off the streets, their priority should be on preventing these offences from occurring at all.
In 2022, more than 33,000 instances of domestic violence were reported in NSW. The average police response time for these cases is unknown because NSW Police is refusing to willingly release the data.
Following Ms Dokhotaru’s case, an investigation into the police response was immediately announced by Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith.
A spokesperson for the NSW Police stated this week that response times form part of the investigation process and “it would be inappropriate to make any comment,” until the investigation is complete.
However, with two women already this year whose deaths could have been prevented, faster response times should be a core focus of both the state and federal plans to end violence against women and children.