London police are laying more charges before domestic disputes end in violence, statistics show.

Monthly statistics released to the police services board this week show a 21% increase in domestic criminal charges - 287 compared to 237 last year - but mostly in non-violent categories such as harassment, stalking, threats and wilful damage.

"It's certainly better to have early intervention than no intervention and then react to a physical confrontation later," said Deputy Police Chief Brad Duncan.

"I see that as proactive. Although these are not violent offences, we know that historically threats, stalking, property damage will occur before there's violence. And that's the deterrent. If we intervene early enough, they now know the police are involved and we can have certain restrictions placed on them to protect the victim. It's this type of early intervention that provides protection for the potential victim."

For instance, harassment or stalking investigations are up 39% to 25 from 18, while threatening investigations are up 69% to date this year to 27 from 16 last year and causing wilful damage incidents are up 54% to 20 from 13 last year. Harassing phone call investigations are also up 29%, to nine from seven last year.

The number of domestic- related charges laid this year is up to 564 from 519 last year, or 9% to date.

Duncan, who noted a domestic violence unit was established last year, said "it's difficult to draw conclusions so early in the year based on limited data, but it's still important to watch those stats and look for trends."

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best, a member of the board, was pleased.

"It says that we are far more proactive in protecting victims and I think it's great that people feel they can call police and get support when they need it before it becomes a case of domestic violence," she said.

Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, welcomed the news but said the violence continues.

"It doesn't mean there hasn't been a lot of physical violence before these charges are laid, because often there is violence before someone complains," said Walker.

"But the fact they're laying more charges is a positive thing. It means there's more awareness and more people are calling police when these things are happening."

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