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Bedfordshire Police will soon be using revolutionary new alcohol detection tags to keep victims of Domestic Abuse safe, thanks to funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway.

The tags, which detect alcohol in perspiration and feed back levels to police remotely from wherever the user may be, are going to be worn by repeat Domestic Abuse offenders who are working with the Force’s Integrated Offender Management (IOM) Team to try to break the cycle of violence and help to protect their partners.

“This is absolutely 21st century policing technology to keep victims safe and represents a completely new approach to managing Domestic Abuse cases where alcohol and binge drinking so often play a part. It will help the officers managing offenders to prove that alcohol is a key factor in their behaviour and I want to make them think twice before drinking and before it triggers violence,” said Commissioner Holloway.

“We’re going to monitor the so-called Sobriety Tags and their effects on the wearer to see just what impact they make on behaviour. The tags will allow staff working with reoffenders to tailor their interventions at the exact point when they’re needed to protect past victims and reduce reoffending,” she said, as she was fitted with one herself at Luton Police Station.

“I wasn’t going to order the tags until it could be proved that they work and, from a practical point of view, by being fitted with one myself I could see that they are both wearable and not too heavy or bulky,” she said.

The Commissioner has allocated £24,363 from her Community Safety and Victim Support Funds for the tags, which use a fuel cell, similar to those found in breathalyser equipment, to detect alcohol.  At intervals, a pump in the device pulls a controlled sample from the skin of the wearer to the alcohol sensor for analysis. If a wearer tries to introduce something to block the sensor from the skin, the tag detects that too.

Chief Inspector for IOM and Community Safety Neill Waring, who applied for the funding on behalf of Bedfordshire Police, said: “This will be the first time Sobriety Tags have been used in Bedfordshire. Domestic related offences are often connected to alcohol and offering tags to monitor alcohol intake will allow a tailored and bespoke approach to reducing dependency and reoffending and harm for victims as well as improving the health of the offender too. Everybody wins.”

He pointed to the additional benefits to those wearing the tags.

“Where accommodation is an issue, reduction in dependency will assist with providing housing as often landlords are resistant to taking on reoffenders with alcohol issues. This can further help stabilise the situation. The impact on family, friends and children in a social and safeguarding sense are clear and reduction in dependency on alcohol will also improve employment opportunities for those who are sufficiently committed to changing their behaviour to wear the tag,” he said.

Matthew Mitchell from SCRAM Systems, who supply the so-called SCRAM CAM tags, said: “Random alcohol testing does not provide adequate or reliable coverage of drinking patterns and lets offenders easily sidestep instructions not to drink. To adequately monitor a participant under abstinence instructions, he or she would have to be tested six times a day including normal sleeping hours, and offenders subject to this method of testing could drink undetected around testing schedules.

“By testing those wearing tags through the skin every thirty minutes, 24 hours a day, we can provide a more efficient and accurate record of testing. We have found, on any given day, 99.3% of SCRAM CAM participants are fully compliant with their instructions not to drink alcohol while being monitored.”

The Commissioner said she is closely monitoring the progress of the SCRAM CAM tagging programme for other potential policing uses in Bedfordshire.

“The Force is going to introduce a project to try to drive down road deaths, as has been done successfully in Northumbria in the UK and also in the US, by identifying those whose past history of accidents too often ends in tragedy when they are killed. I’m told by the manufacturer that the alcohol detection tags are most often used there for this reason to stop drink driving so watch this space as that is of great interest to me when it comes to next year’s round of Community Safety Funding, depending on the performance of this first project,” she said.