WESTBROOK— Police are getting a second Scout Alarm to lend to victims of domestic violence so they can quickly alert authorities if they find themselves again in danger.

The discreet device, which summons police to a programmed address, can be a lifesaver for victims, a Maine domestic violence advocacy group says.

So far in 2019, Westbrook Police have responded to 139 domestic violence calls, resulting in 39 cases with criminal charges, and they have responded to 49 cases of violated protection orders.

According to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, a domestic violence assault is reported to law enforcement about every two hours in Maine, and in 2017, domestic violence assaults comprised 40.2% of the total assaults reported to police statewide.

With these numbers in mind and only one Scout Alarm now at their disposal, Westbrook police are buying a second alarm for $4,210. The state Attorney General’s Office lends out similar devices to local police departments, but there are under 20 for the entire state, which can create a wait for the devices, and they are older and less effective, said Westbrook Police Capt. Steve Goldberg.

Westbrook police have always had at least one of the security devices deployed since Goldberg became captain in 2016, he said.

“Unfortunately, there is a need for them,” Goldberg said. “Domestic violence is something we deal with frequently. We have a lot of victims and there are legitimate concerns about their safety.”

The devices are similar to “Life Alert” medical alarms. The small Scout Alarm boxes are programmed for the specific address of the person using it. In the case of someone violating a protection from abuse order, for example, the alarm holder would push a button to alert police that the violator has shown up at the home.

“The thing that is great about the alarms is it transmits over the police radio. There is an instantaneous notification to all on-duty officers,” Goldberg said.

“It shaves off seconds or minutes, which is huge,” he said.

The devices are given out on a case by case basis to domestic violence victims who are at continued risk. A number of factors determine that risk, including whether the victim’s abuser is out of jail and if they have a previous history of violence.

Once the abuser is behind bars or has left the area, the victim returns the devices to police.

“These are volatile situations, the violence is real,” Goldberg said. “In Maine, half of our murders are domestic violence-related. Fortunately, we’ve had few murders, but half have been domestic violence-related here, too. The sooner we get to the scene the sooner we can prevent harm.”

Westbrook Police work in partnership with Through These Doors, a domestic violence advocacy group that offers numerous programs and a 24/7 hotline, focusing on Cumberland County. Representatives are often present when police follow up with victims and have come to know both Westbrook police and their cases.

In 2018 alone, Through These Doors assisted over 3,4000 unique callers to its free and confidential hotline. helping them find housing, pairing them with attorneys, offering counseling and more, according to Executive Director Rebecca Hobbs.

“These can be incredibly dangerous and precarious situations,” Hobbs said. “When you open the paper, with a lot of murders, there was a protective order, someone was about to leave their abusive spouse.”

Scout Alarms and other discreet safety devices like them could save a life, she said.

“Everything we can do to get the police there quicker is safer for the person being victimized and the family,” Hobbs said. “Any electronic or tech measures we can take to help are great, especially if they aren’t obvious to the perpetrator. Every situation is different, the more time that the perpetrator has to prepare for police, the more dangerous that situation is.”

 

 

Comments are not available on this story.