Saturday, July 18, 2009

GPS, Mary's Law,Good Laws, Difficult to Implement

In our small jurisdiction we have had a very difficult time implementing GPS tracking. The Judges are on board but the questions as to cost and who will monitor have been daunting for a system that has been forced to cut expenses and personnel in all areas of public safety. I continue to work on it, meeting after meeting, slowly but surely. Mary Babb's killing was very close to our area and had an impact that resonates still. Some of the roadblocks are outlined in the Chicago Tribune today

More states approving GPS in domestic abuse cases


Associated Press Writer

7:31 PM CDT, July 17, 2009


Six months before she was killed, Evairene Flores wrote her entire family in case she died: "Many will miss me, many will cry, but it was because of Matthew that I had to die."

Married for 20 years to an abusive husband, Flores divorced Matthew O'Connor and turned to the San Antonio courts for a protective order to keep him away.

When O'Connor continued to threaten her, a district court ordered him to wear an electronic monitor, court documents show. But that didn't stop O'Connor from kicking in the door of Flores' apartment and shooting her more than 20 times on Aug. 23, 2006. O'Connor then shot himself.

Flores' sister says the killing might have been prevented if O'Connor's electronic monitor had been equipped with a global positioning system, allowing police to track his movements and warn Flores before he reached her apartment.

The device -- the same technology used in car navigation systems -- has become an increasingly popular tool in the fight to protect domestic violence victims.

In June, Texas joined 17 states that have passed legislation requiring GPS use as a condition of probation for a convicted domestic violence offender.

But some advocates and law enforcement officials worry that ambiguous language, lack of funding and overall confusion in some of the bills may only endanger victims, providing only an illusion of safety. The measure could exacerbate offender violence and silence women, particularly minorities, who are terrified of their abusers and have little faith in the system, advocates say.

"I worry that nationally there is a lot of fervor that GPS is going to save everyone" and authorities will stop looking at other solutions such as education, said Cindy Southworth, director of technology for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

GPS technology allows police to monitor and respond the moment an offender gets near the job, home or school of a victim with a protective order. The device records it and provides evidence of an offense.

"It's a moment where the technology matches the problem in a way that can help criminal justice systems address domestic violence," said Harvard Law School lecturer Diane Rosenfeld. "I see this as domestic homicide prevention."

Before these laws became popular, protective orders required offenders to stay away but did little to stop them.

"We've had deaths in Corpus Christi where someone had a protective order but it just wasn't quite enough," said Frances Wilson, executive director of the Women's Shelter of South Texas, "This (measure) will encourage more victims to come forward and give more teeth to protective orders."

Three women are killed every day in the U.S. by their husbands or boyfriends, according to Justice Department statistics. Such killings accounted for about a third of all female homicides in the United States, statistics show.

Without GPS, police have been lax to follow up on complaints that partners are ignoring protective orders, said Tara Shabazz, executive director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

However, Shabazz and her organization oppose California's proposed GPS legislation because it would require the state to order GPS tracking for an offender without providing details on how to implement it.

In Illinois, the law there has frustrated smaller jurisdictions ill-equipped to carry out its requirements. Advocates and officials are struggling to interpret the details of a 2008 state law that requires judges to order the devices for protective order violators.

"When we start playing with anything computerized or electronic, it all sounds good and we wish it worked like it does in 'CSI,"' said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, "but the reality is we aren't there yet."

The Illinois law also doesn't spell out who would pay for the devices and many police departments don't have enough officers to enforce every violation.

In California, the cash-strapped government can't pay for the program, said Alexis Moore, the president and founder of Survivors in Action, a California-based advocacy group. Similarly in Texas, no money was appropriated for GPS implementation.

In most states the offender must pay the $4 to $12 daily fee, but some critics say the offenders don't always pay up, and the cost ultimately falls on local governments.

Despite the problems, Rosenfeld said the popularity of GPS devices does signal a shift in the prosecution of these crimes and the attitudes of local agencies.

"It enables us to see who's paying attention to orders of protection," she said. "GPS is not necessarily going to make police departments stand up and say, 'We have to do something about it,' but it takes away a lot of their excuses for not taking it up."

Floria Roberts said a GPS device could have given her sister the time to save her own life.

"My sister would have had a 50 percent chance of surviving that attack if she was given at least a two-minute warning," Roberts said.


  1. I have a hard time understanding why this would be difficult to implement?

    They've got them for sex offenders and have used them for years. The monitoring device isn't going to know if the criminal is a rapist or a batterer. If it is being put on convicted abusers the DOC should be doing it, they have the experience, equipment and know how.

    We all have GPS in our cars, our phones, our postage stamps. I pay $4.99 a month for one. It is time for the justice system to get on board.

    So what's the problem. MONEY. The same problem it always is.

    Have any of you ever thought to look at a organizational chart showing how the different state organizations break down. The Justice Department (Under Sec of State) is not connected to the Department of Corrections (Under the Governor). I'd sure like to follow the money!

    They do not communicate well with each other. The victim must make it her mission to see that they are aware of all criminal infractions and push for DOC to conduct judicial review as well as the DA to prosecute. And don't think you're done yet. The victim must follow through to the PRB and Parole.

    People this is about saying lives. In many metro areas the percentage of police calls for DV has risen to 50%. They better do something to deter this CRIME. Too many innocent women and children are dying!

    These cases of battery, child abuse, rape are not love gone wrong, they are crimes. I am sick and tired of these crimes against women and children going unpunished. The deaths are increasing and will unless something is done to exact justice.

    The GPS is a good start.

    STOP the Crying over money! We need effective guarentees of personal security!

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    My personal commentary above the story has nothing to do with the Department of Corrections, parole boards or state agencies. We have that in place. We are attempting to implement GPS tracking in conjunction with the personal protection orders that warrant it and within some pre-trial release orders in stalking and dv cases.
    As I said, we are working on it. We recognize it's needed and I was hoping for constructive suggestions, model policies, practical application, input from others who may already have it going on a local level.
    I am acutely aware of the statistics. In the last fiscal year I assisted 522 victims as a one person agency. 320 were domestic violence victims, the rest sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, etc. and we are a very small rural jurisdiction. I do what I can with all the energy and resources I have. I seek immediate, realistic solutions to provide ethical and sustainable advocacy.

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. Thank you so much for your kind remarks, Margaret!


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