Measuring the Impact of Trauma-Informed Security Practices (Case Study)

October 2, 2023
Seka Lussier

In the realm of public-facing professions, a paradigm shift is underway—one that prioritizes empathy, understanding, and trauma-informed practices. This transformative approach acknowledges the profound impact of trauma on individuals and seeks to create safer, more supportive environments. In recent years, a growing awareness of this impact has led to the emergence of trauma-informed approaches in various fields; the Community Safety Host (CSH) Initiative seeks to bring this practice into security services.

In this blog post, we explore how measuring the impact of trauma-informed security services, using the CSH Initiative as a case study, can illuminate the path to safer communities. This Initiative, designed to support vulnerable populations, employs individuals known as Community Safety Hosts who are trained to provide a safe and secure environment while considering the trauma histories of the guests they serve.

Understanding Trauma-Informed Security Practices

Trauma-informed security practices recognize that many individuals have experienced trauma in their lives. This trauma can manifest in various ways, influencing behaviors, triggers, and emotional responses. Traditional security approaches often fall short in addressing these complexities, sometimes exacerbating trauma.

Trauma-informed security, on the other hand, is rooted in principles such as safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. It seeks to create safe spaces where individuals can feel secure, respected, and heard, even in challenging situations. But how do we measure the impact of such an approach?

Measuring Impact: The CSH Initiative

The CSH Initiative was implemented through a collaborative effort between FearlessR2W: an Indigenous led Non-Profit that works to reunify and offer support to families and individuals dealing with the Child Welfare System, & Persons Community Solutions: a Community Development Social Enterprise with a strong emphasis on social impact, sustainability, and innovation. This program equips Community Safety Hosts with the knowledge and skills to provide security while considering the unique needs of individuals carrying trauma.

  • Reduced Triggers and Re-traumatization: Trauma-informed security practices focus on creating environments that minimize triggers and re-traumatization. The CSH Initiative considers seemingly benign factors that could potentially trigger traumatic memories or emotions. The Community Safety Hosts are licensed Security Guards but instead of pressed white shirts, black pants, and badges, they wear gray polo shirts and tan pants. There is a level of intimidation that the former image portrays which can commonly act as a barrier to accessing services from the perspective of a guest who has previously had negative interactions with authority.
  • Improved Well-Being of Guests and increased accessibility: The primary goal of trauma-informed care is to promote well-being. In traditional Security practices, an individual who does not meet the criteria for a ‘desirable’ guest would simply be removed. No shoes, no shirt, no service – right? The CSH Initiative operates in places of access and on the understanding that all individuals are worthy of respect, and so if a guest with no shoes comes into a facility like a public library where shoes are required, a Community Safety Host initiates a warm hand-off. A warm handoff is a seamless and respectful transfer of an individual from one service provider to another, ensuring continuity of care and a positive experience. It involves direct communication and collaboration between the parties involved to enhance the individual’s journey. In the case of the guest with no shoes, this looks like friendly introductions and conversation involving kindly explaining the requirements of entry, gaining consent to provide an alternative solution, a call to a local resource informing them of the pending arrival of an individual in need of assistance, followed up with assisted arrangements (if necessary) to ensure the guest is able to get there. This is how a Community Safety Host secures the safety of a space, being overall proactive and welcoming while reducing barriers. Once equipped with shoes, that guest can return with the knowledge of the facility rules, and the positive experience of being treated with respect and kindness.
  • Enhanced Trust and Communication: Trust is a foundational element of trauma-informed practices. The CSH initiative fosters trust between guests and hosts through empathetic interactions, active listening, and open communication. One very intentional avenue towards this element is the criteria on which Community Safety Hosts are hired. During the hiring process individuals with lived experiences in navigating barriers are heavily encouraged to apply, and wrap-around supports are offered to applicants who share the values and goals of the initiative but are inexperienced as members of the workforce. Applicants are not asked the standard interview questions, instead it is an hour of getting to know the individual, understanding the path they have walked, the compass to their morals, and the value they place in community. A Community Safety Host is someone who can empathize with the journey of an escalated individual, which better equips them when implementing the formal de-escalation training that comes with the position.
  • Reduced Incidents: One of the most significant impacts of trauma-informed security practices is a decrease in incidents that escalate to the point of requiring law enforcement. Traditional Security practices aim to remove escalated individuals, risking further escalation of a person already in an elevated state, and as a result is more likely to require a call to the authorities. From October 2021 to March 2023 – a period of 17 months, 92% of escalated incidents involving Community Safety Hosts were resolved without needing to involve law enforcement. Not only does this support individuals with mental health challenges but it also reduces the drain on valuable public resources.
  • Employee Satisfaction: Trauma-informed practices also extends to the well-being of the employees. In the CSH initiative, employees are trained to recognize signs of trauma, manage challenging situations, and prioritize self-care. This focus on employee well-being results in a motivated and empathetic workforce, ultimately benefiting the guests they serve.

By prioritizing the well-being of vulnerable populations and fostering a culture of empathy and understanding, the initiative continues to reduce triggers, improve the well-being of guests, enhance trust and communication, reduce incidents, increase accessibility, and boost employee satisfaction. These tangible outcomes underscore the importance and effectiveness of trauma-informed approaches in security services and highlight the potential for positive change in the lives of those who face barriers to essential services.

As the paradigm shift towards trauma-informed practices gains momentum, the CSH Initiative stands as a prototypal beacon—a testament to the power of empathy and understanding in the realm of security services. By measuring its impact, we not only validate its success but also pave the way for a more secure and trauma-sensitive future.