District 2 Councilmember Alan Warrick II announced Thursday a proposal to help protect vulnerable victims of child abuse, domestic violence and stalking by waiving the City’s permit fee on home security systems. Currently the fee is $40, with a $75 fine imposed if police are called to a home because of a security alarm without a permit in place.
District 1 Councilmember Roberto Treviño said the proposal represents a way to remove an important barrier to public safety. Various community leaders mentioned the usefulness of a victim being able to view the safety of their home before returning to it, or being able to feel more secure once they were inside. Thanks to advances in technology, new security systems have such capabilities.
It’s perhaps a little-known fact that the City of San Antonio requires a permit for every installation of a home alarm system, along with an annual renewal fee.
Warrick called his proposal, which occurred to him shortly after taking office, a “no-brainer” that “everyone could buy into.” He was joined by District 8 Councilmember Ron Nirenberg, District 3 Councilmember Rebecca Viagran, and Treviño at the press release.
Waiving the fee, Warrick said, would remove a substantial economic barrier for crime victims looking for increased security. He put forward his proposal via a Council Consideration Request (CCR). The next step will be to present the CCR to committees on government affairs and public safety for approval, then onto City Council.
Nirenberg called domestic violence “a scourge upon the community ... (there is) no more basic need than the ability to feel safe in our own homes.”
Industry representative Tim Krebs from Protect America, which provides wireless alarm systems to customers which they can install themselves and then monitor for a monthly fee as low as $30, discussed how victims of domestic violence and stalking are often at greatest risk in their own homes, after they have kicked the perpetrator out.
“An ex-husband knows the home’s layout better than any stranger,” said Krebs.
Krebs called the alarm systems “technology that brings safety and peace of mind” to residents worried about their own and their children’s safety.
One in six women in San Antonio is a victim of stalking, Warrick said, and this figure is absolutely in line with the national average, according a fact sheet provided by the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC). That would work out to about 700,000 women in San Antonio, using 2010 U.S. Census figures.
Randy McGibeny, from local child advocacy center ChildSafe, described how scared victims of child abuse can be.
Why won’t victims tell the authorities that they're being abused? “Because the perpetrators are often threatening their lives,” he said.
San Antonio had 5,846 confirmed victims of child abuse last year, according to McGibeny, a figure three times higher than much more populous Harris County, where Houston is located.
If you’ve never been the victim of stalking or domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), you may not realize how prevalent, serious, or disruptive it is nationwide. More than 3/4 of women killed by their former spouses or partners reported being stalked by them, and more than half had reported this stalking to the police within the 12 months before their deaths, according to figures provided by the NCVC. The Center also reports that 2/3 of stalking victims report contact at least once a week, with almost half experiencing multiple contacts a week. More than 10% of stalking victims have been pursued for five years or more.
Locally, police field about 44,000 domestic violence calls a year, according to Warrick.
Adrianna Gongora, the director of residential services at the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter of San Antonio, spoke on behalf of the CCR for two reasons, she said, relieving some of the financial burden on crime victims and increasing their sense of personal security.
Both Gongora and Patricia Castillo, domestic violence advocate and executive director of the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative, spoke about how women victims sometimes choose to stay with abusers because the financial cost of leaving is just too great.
“The burden lies with the women (victims),” said Gongora, pointing to the 170-180 families who visit the shelter each month. “Waiving these fees would help."
"Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easier for the women to go back — it’s easier to be beaten” than to take on the financial risk of leaving even a very dangerous situation, Gongora said.
Castillo called the initiative “very important and very much needed.
"Family violence is a multilayered problem, and we need every tool and every option available to us."
Warrick’s proposal coincides with National Stalking Awareness Month.
*Featured/top image: Alan Warrick II is sworn in as the new District 2 Council member. Photo by Iris Dimmick.