2011-12-27 / News

Another tool in the fight against domestic violence

By Darcie Moore, Times Record Staff


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INVESTIGATORS Steve Edmondson from Sagadahoc County, left, and Robert McFetridge from Lincoln County accept one of the personal alarm units from Kate Schleh of Northeast Security Systems. 
COURTESY OF STEVE EDMONDSON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INVESTIGATORS Steve Edmondson from Sagadahoc County, left, and Robert McFetridge from Lincoln County accept one of the personal alarm units from Kate Schleh of Northeast Security Systems. COURTESY OF STEVE EDMONDSON BATH — Law enforcement officials in Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties have a new tool to help in the fight against domestic violence in the form of new panic alarms.

Wiscasset-based Northeast Security Systems donated four alarm units to the two counties and agreed to cover the cost of monitoring them, according to Steve Edmondson, domestic violence investigator for the Sagadahoc County District Attorney’s Office.

Edmondson credits Brodie Hinckley, director of the Sagadahoc County Communications Center, with getting the ball rolling on the project because without him, “I don’t think we could have got this done.”

Following a recent press conference in South Portland announcing a donation of domestic violence alarms by another security company to the city, Hinckley approached Edmondson about purchasing alarms for the same purpose.

Hinckley said he already had developed a relationship with Northeast Security Systems, the company that installed the communication center’s in-house video system, and set up a meeting with Edmondson and Northeast’s field representative Kate Schleh.

The trio discussed Northeast selling the county alarm units to the county at cost, as well as covering the operating cost of monitoring the alarms once they are installed in a home. Hours after the meeting, Edmondson said he received word from Schleh that Northeast would donate four units to be shared between Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties.

“In cases of domestic violence, one of the biggest issues law enforcement faces are cases where perpetrators disable or prevent contact with law enforcement,” by their victims, Edmondson said.

As one alternative tool, Sagadahoc County Sheriff ’s Department has provided donated cell phones to survivors of domestic violence, allowing them to dial 911 at no charge. But cell phone coverage can be unreliable in some areas, Edmondson said.

Edmondson said he expects that Family Crisis advocates will be involved in determining who is a candidate to have the alarms placed in their homes. Those individuals who are facing a threat of violence outside of the home, he said, will be candidates.

Edmondson said those who have alarms installed “will know what that alarm means when it’s triggered in their office, and then they notify the appropriate law enforcement agency for the law enforcement response.”

The home panic alarms look like an answering machine, Edmondson said, which is run through the phone system. The alarm can be activated through a mobile remote, or by hitting a button on the unit itself, sending a signal to Northeast Security.

Edmondson said that the alarm will be hidden to prevent it from being located and dismantled.

The one downside to this system, Edmondson said, is that it requires a landline telephone at a time when many people are moving away from landline service and using strictly cell phone service.

For the last five consecutive years, Edmondson said, the number of domestic violence arrests were down but 2011 saw a significant spike within Sagadahoc County.

Edmondson said more victims are willing to report domestic violence crimes, but they are still believed to be vastly under- reported. Edmondson said the security alarms can help.

“ Knowing that they are going to get help with a press of a button — that is huge psychological support for them,” Edmondson said. “And for us, the more practical measure is, we now know that this woman now has this safety measure that will get a police response, when she might not otherwise be able to reach out to law enforcement. By the press of a button, she knows police are going to come.”

Edmondson said he is pleased with the expansion of the program.

“And it is a step up for us in being able to offer this service to victims of domestic violence,” Edmondson said.

Sagadahoc County Commissioners supported acceptance of the alarms and indicated that they want to hear back from Edmondson on the effectiveness of the alarm units.

dmoore@timesrecord.com

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