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Electronic protection for domestic violence victims

The Federal Way Police Department decided to invest a gift of $2,100 from Puget Sound Energy into the protection of domestic violence victims in Federal Way.

Police plan to buy an alarm system that will have the capability to immediately dispatch officers to the scene of a domestic violence incident.

As a way to thank the police for their efforts in preventing the theft of copper wire at PSE substations in Federal Way, PSE asked the police department how it could show appreciation, said Gary Nomensen, PSE community relations manager. Police commanders responded to PSE with a request for funds to buy a Voice Activated Radio Dispatched Alarm system, Nomensen said.

PSE donated $2,100 to the police department Aug. 7 to buy the VARDA system. The alarm is something the department has shown an interest in as a way to possibly prevent some domestic violence cases in the city, Police Chief Brian Wilson said. It has been on the police’s wish list of items aimed at eliminating domestic violence in Federal Way for quite some time, Nomensen said.

“We were really pleased they chose to use (the funding) this way,” he said.

VARDA is a portable alarm system that can be placed on doors or windows. It alerts police when someone is trying to enter a residence that is armed with the device, Wilson said.

The alarm will result in a quick and timely police response. The tool is relatively small and has the power to request dispatch of an officer through the police radio system. Officers dispatched by VARDA will know they are being summoned by a domestic violence victim, Wilson said.

“We believe it is a really good tool for domestic violence victims concerned for their safety,” Wilson said.

The alarm system is not a permanent solution to domestic violence, but police expect it to provide victims immediate and temporary alleviation from their situation, Wilson said. The alarm could be placed, for example, in a home that generates frequent domestic violence calls or at a residence where police feel a victim may be in extreme danger, he said. It could also be put in place prior to a protection order being issued.

The alarm may help deter a domestic violence situation, said the lead legal advocate with the YMCA South King County Domestic Violence Services Program, who for safety reasons preferred to go by her first name of Simone only. Operation of the alarm would need to be fully explained to victims, and they should realize it is a tool that may help them — but it should not be their only safety plan, she said.

“I wouldn’t want them to rely on this,” Simone said.

The department only has funding to purchase one device, and patrol officers will decide where it will be most beneficial, Wilson said. Once a threat has been addressed, the alarm could be moved to better protect another victim, Wilson said.

If the police department finds the system to be as beneficial as it expects, it may look into purchasing more alarms, Wilson said.

The VARDA system will not be available for police use for approximately four to six weeks, Wilson said. Once the department has acquired the alarm, it will release more information as to how it operates and who may benefit.

“This is just another way we’re focusing on domestic violence in the Federal Way community,” Wilson said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

To talk to professionals about a domestic violence situation, call the YMCA South King County Domestic Violence Services Program at (425) 226-1266, Ext. 1017, or call the Washington State Domestic Violence hotline at (800) 562-6025 to find more services in your area.

Copper wire theft:

PSE and the Federal Way Police Department have worked closely together in the past few years to address the theft of copper wire in Federal Way, Nomensen said. The wire can be sold illegally for a hefty price, which has encouraged some thieves to swipe it from places such as PSE’s sub stations, which provide power to the city’s residents, Nomensen said. Theft of the wire can result in a loss of power for customers, Nomensen said. Each substation in Federal Way services about 6,000 customers, he said.

The police department has made three arrests of thieves attempting to steal such wire, Police

Commander Steve Neal said. The first arrest was made on May 19, another on May 22 and the third on July 7, at the PSE sub station on 16th Avenue South, Neal said.

“Here’s a police department that is doing a very good job and we wanted to recognize and thank them publicly for catching these individuals,” Nomensen said.

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