App aims to get justice for victims protection

A NORTH East family violence support service believes a new smartphone app could make a difference in protecting victims and encouraging them to take police action.

The app, created by the relatively new crime prevention group Community Against Crime (CAC), allows users to alert others to a crime as it’s happening at the touch of a button.

So impressive is the Help CAC app, it even has the support of prominent former Victoria Police homicide squad detective turned community safety advocate Charlie Bezzina.

“It’s an amazing thing, the technology that is available now and we really have to embrace it,” he said.

“From an investigation point of view I highly recommend it — it’s the world we live in now.”

Mr Bezzina was in Wangaratta yesterday, speaking alongside CAC director and app creator, Tim Payne, on how the app could be used for people in vulnerable positions, such as women or children suffering physical or sexual violence.

The talk was organised by Wangaratta’s Centre Against Violence (CAV) — formerly the Upper Murray Centre Against Sexual Assault.

“We’re hoping that for women trying to achieve safety the app will help them feel more secure,” CAV chief executive officer Kerry Burns said.

The app is activated by touching the icon, which records video and audio. The screen remains black so the attacker doesn’t know the phone is in use.

All recordings are monitored by a private security company, which phones Triple-0 if the situation sounds serious.

App users are registered and the program also uses GPS to tell police where the crime is occurring.

Ms Burns said it was particularly useful in gathering physical evidence which was often missing in family or sexual violence cases.

“Often women are disbelieved, so having that evidence is really important,” she said.

Mr Bezzina and Mr Payne agreed.

“Even if the phone is taken away from them, or the victim has been moved, it’s too late — the evidence is already there,” Mr Payne said.

Mr Bezzina said from the policing standpoint, evidence was vital.

“Police can only really pursue matters that are evidence-based,” he said.

“If you think about the Jill Meagher case, that crime was solved from behind a computer screen,” he said.

The Help CAC app costs $19.99 and is available for iPhone and Android.

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