Can security companies improve responses to victims of family violence?
In an Australian first, the Salvation Army has partnered with a private security company, Protective Group, in a large-scale project to provide safety solutions to family violence victims. The Safer In The Home project launched in September 2016 operates in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. By 2017 and 2018 the project aims to provide services to over 600 clients across the country.
What is notable about this project is the involvement of a private security company. Private security companies are typically contracted by large businesses, governments and wealthy individuals. They rarely partner with charitable organisations to tackle domestic violence.
However, over the past few years private security companies have been gradually entering this space.
Since 2013, Protective Group has been working with a number of family violence services including the Safe Futures Foundation, Wishin Foundation and Salvation Army in Victoria. Between 2013 and 2015 they provided services to over 200 victims.
Protective Group draws on their former experience as Victoria Police officers and expertise in security to debug homes of malicious surveillance, provide advice on the justice process and suggest interim security solutions. These include 3G Safety Watches and SafeT Cards. A 12 month partnership pilot with Protective Group and Safe Futures Foundation found that using the SafeT Card system resulted in a “100% deterrence” in perpetrators breaching intervention orders.
The introduction of commercial security providers in family violence matters raises questions about the suitability of private security employees engaging with family violence victims. There are also concerns around the profit motive of the companies.
The benefits of private security for family violence victims
Initial experiences indicate that private security companies can provide a beneficial service to victims that is distinct from those provided by the police and other family violence services.
Private security companies can provide a high level of attentiveness in responding to victim’s fears and needs. Victoria Police receive a domestic violence related call every two minutes and recorded over 68,000 incidents in 2014 alone. This results in overstretched police resources and contributes to a recognised inability to respond effectively to all cases.
Alternatively, private security companies can offer more practical support and implement a variety of security strategies. These are individually tailored and more focused on the question: “what can be done to make you feel safe?”
Likewise, police responses tend to involve the credibility of the victim being challenged. Research from Queensland has documented that police can often trivialise, minimise, disbelieve or consider the complaint “not that serious” or “annoying”.
The risks of private security for family violence victims
There are reasons to be optimistic that private security companies can play a useful role in improving safety for particularly vulnerable people. However, there are two key immediate concerns.
First is the level of competence and appropriateness of private security employees gaining privileged access to victims. The re-traumatisation of victims is a major risk and only trusted, competent and specialised workers should have face-to-face access. In the case of Protective Group, the Salvation Army have expressed satisfaction with their abilities demonstrated over years of partnership.
Second is the potential for financial exploitation. In the case of the Safer In The Home program there are no costs to the clients, as it is funded through a federal government grant. Protective Group has established a relationship of trust and confidence with the Salvation Army built on years of providing free services.
Protective Group joins us as an exhibitor at the upcoming 2016 Stop Domestic Violence Conference in Brisbane over the 5-7 December. For more information on the conference and to secure your spot at this important event please visit www.stopdomesticviolence.com.au