Enforcement agents have been the subject of both new, restrictive legislation and increasing public pressure over our activity in recent years. And while we recognise the need for constant care and attention to how we conduct our business, I’ve become more and more concerned about an imbalance when it comes to violence against our agents.
Protecting enforcement agents
Enforcement agents play an essential role in recouping unpaid debt and protecting the cashflow of councils and companies alike. If we become too intimidated to carry out our duties, we become ineffective and useless – with serious implications for the economy.
Violent and threatening behaviour is a common risk for agents operating in certain areas – just think of the incident in Nottingham last September when bailiffs were threatened with being set on fire for trying to discharge a £400 fine. Do we really want these places to become no-go areas, or can we work together with public bodies, the general public and the latest technology to defuse threatening behaviour in a safe, accountable way?
The importance of trust
At Dukes Bailiffs, all of our agents have training in and knowledge of the law underpinning every decision they make, ensuring they cannot be undermined. It also empowers our agents to remind customers of the ramifications of their actions and suggest ways to move forward in the event of an impasse.
We are, first and foremost, informed and understanding negotiators. By adopting this approach, we hope to engender trust among not just our clients, but debtors and the wider community.
Support and accountability
We deal with potential violence by remaining calm, professional and rational. If it comes up at any stage, we document it and take appropriate action, like doubling resources for safety and verification. However, we recognise that, as the ones with legal knowledge and experience, we’re in a position of authority and therefore must be responsible.
Consequently, I believe it’s key to involve independent third parties like the police, Citizens Advice and Department for Work and Pensions wherever possible. In practice, they can’t always intervene immediately, and that’s where body-worn video (BWV) is especially useful.
The value of BWV
Video cameras may have the potential to inflame situations, but once we take time to explain why it is important to record events, ensuring our actions are within company and national standards, they prove very effective. When people realise their words and actions are being recorded, they tend to calm down and consider their behaviour. So, as well as having objective evidence, we have a tool to reduce violence.
However, it only works if we take the time to explain to people that we simply want to complete our economic role in the most calm, fair and constructive manner possible. With this as a basis, the work of enforcement agents becomes safer, more effective and easier to engage with.