Victoria Police has become the first police force in Australia to trial a new tool which will better protect victims of stalking.
The tool – introduced at Prahran and Morwell police stations last month – includes a series of questions responding police use to better assess if someone is at serious risk of harm and put measures in place to protect victims.
More than 100 frontline officers and detectives in the trial sites are now trained to use the Screening Assessment for Stalking and Harassment (SASH) tool, which indicates the level of risk posed to victims in non-family violence situations.
Stalking behaviours are complex and it can be difficult to recognise the level of risk posed to an individual. This is because the offence of stalking is often made up of a series of behaviours, which if viewed in isolation, may not constitute an offence.
The tool requires police to consider 16 risk factors when taking a report of stalking not related to family violence. The SASH tool supports officers assess incidents as low, moderate or high risk.
Local Crime Investigation Units (CIU) will take on high-risk cases, with frontline officers managing cases assessed as moderate or low risk. The CIU will oversee moderate-risk cases.
The tool will help police prioritise investigations, manage risks and put in appropriate safety planning for victims.
Officers participating in the trial have received specialist training from a stalking expert to shift their thinking from identifying crime to recognising, understanding, and responding to the behaviours and risks posed to victims of stalking.
Victims are encouraged to report stalking incidents by phoning or visiting their local police station, however currently only police from the trial sites will have access to the SASH tool.
Stalking continues to cause significant harm in the community, with officers responding to more than 1100 non-family violence stalking offences in the last year, an increase of 12 per cent compared with the previous year.
The SASH tool is currently used by professionals overseas, including in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Scotland and Italy, to identify stalking behaviour and assess risk posed to victims.
The pilot at Prahran and Morwell police stations will continue until June 2022, before being expanded to include more trial locations within the same area.
Quotes attributable to Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner Lauren Callaway
“Stalking and any behaviour that creates fear and control over someone is not OK.
“Stalking is a complex crime. This trial is so important because it will help police better recognise and understand stalking behaviours to improve safety for victims.
“It also sends a message to anyone thinking of perpetrating these behaviours — they will not be tolerated, and police will take action.
“The new tool will complement Victoria Police’s enhanced training in protecting victims of stalking.
“Our frontline police are being equipped with an innovative and structured risk assessment tool that will greatly assist in protecting victims from unwanted behaviour.
“They will be supported by trained investigators, who will also be responsible for ensuring matters are investigated swiftly to hold perpetrators to account for their harmful actions.”