Comparing panic alarm systems for high-risk domestic abuse victims: a randomised controlled trial on prevention and criminal justice system outcomes

William Hodgkinson, Barak Ariel*, Vincent Harinam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The use of panic alarm systems for victims of domestic abuse is becoming increasingly popular. However, tests of these devices are rare. Consequently, it is presently unknown whether domestic abuse offenders are deterred by warning stickers informing them that a panic alarm system is installed on the premises, or whether alarm systems reduce domestic abuse recidivism. There is also a lack of data regarding whether adding an audio-recording feature to the panic alarm results in more prosecutions of domestic abuse offenders compared to standard panic alarm systems. Measuring the efficacy of warning stickers and audio recordings will enhance understanding of the overall effectiveness of panic alarm systems for domestic abuse. Methods: This study used a pre-test-post-test, control group design, in which 300 eligible high-risk domestic abuse victims in London, UK, were randomly allocated to either a standard panic alarm system or a panic alarm system with audio-recording capabilities and a red warning sticker on a durable, A6-size sign displayed at eye level at the entrance to the premises. Each sticker was well lit to ensure maximum visibility. The gain scores of multiple measures at 6 months prior and 6 months post-randomisation were used to assess the treatment effects (including the number of calls for service, recorded crimes, and harm score), and a negative binomial generalised linear model was utilised to estimate the likelihood of criminal charges for domestic abuse offenders in the two systems. Outcomes: Pre-post comparisons of recidivism suggested an overall reduction in both treatment arms, but there were no statistically significant differences between the two types of alarm systems across these crime measures. Nevertheless, the estimation model indicated a significant 57% increase in charges using the audio-recording alarm relative to the standard panic alarm system. Conclusions: Using deterrent stickers to warn domestic abuse offenders of panic alarm systems does not lead to a reduction in subsequent harm to victims. Compared to ordinary panic alarms for high-risk domestic abuse victims, audio-recording systems provide valuable evidence that increases subsequent charges, and thus, these systems should be explored further.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)595-613
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number3
Early online date4 Apr 2022
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Domestic abuse
  • Panic alarms
  • Police


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