Suffolk County Legislature Expected To Approve Pilot Program Of 30 Devices On Tuesday

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Suffolk County says it will be a first for the state, requiring violators of orders of protection to wear ankle bracelets that warn their victims if they approach.

Up until now, ankle bracelets have only been used for criminal court, but now lawmakers want to use them in family court, and lawmakers want this trial program to also allow victims to use a receiver to track offenders’ movements by GPS, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Monday.

Suffolk legislator Kara Hahn, D-Port Jefferson, says in the last few years, domestic violence offenders have violated more than 1,500 orders of protection. Shelter operators say that domestic violence victims often don’t even ask for the court order, fearing it will only escalate the violence.

“When confronted by someone who has hurt her in the past and is threatening to hurt her again, hold up a piece of paper and say ‘I have an order of protection, stay away?’ That doesn’t always work,” Hahn said.

“Taking action against the abuser by reporting it to police or attempting separation often places the victim at higher risk,” said Colleen Merlo of the Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Domestic violence advocates point to the horrific stabbing death of Joanna Byrd in 2009. The Nassau County woman had a protection of order against her estranged husband. Shocked jurors listened to recordings of his threats against Byrd, despite a court order of protection.

Legislator Hahn and her backers said Byrd’s life could have been saved if she had been armed with a GPS ankle bracelet detector, similar to one being marketed on the Internet.

“Any time the two units come into a certain distance, the victim would be alerted,” Hahn said.

On Tuesday the Suffolk Legislature is expected to approve a trial program by purchasing 30 of the GPS detectors. Judges would order the worst offenders to wear a GPS bracelet, allowing victims to track their movements through the portable detectors.

“I would call 911 immediately. I would not be another victim again,” domestic violence victim Saundra Crowell said.

Violators, themselves, would pay for the GPS monitoring, Sanchez reported.

Backers of the measure said domestic violence victims could have the GPS detectors as soon as this summer, Sanchez reported.

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