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GPS tracking technology could curb domestic violence

Do you have a minute? That sixty seconds, a mere moment of each day, is all it takes for an average of 24 people to fall victim to acts of physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner. While that number may not seem high, once calculated out, it represents 12 million women and men each year.

The chances are, you or someone you know is one of the statistics, as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S., 18 years and older, has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

As sobering as these facts are and should be, one may be left to wonder what is being done to reduce the number of domestic violence (DV) occurrences.

There are various resources for anyone seeking to escape domestic violence, although it may not be obvious how to locate and contact them. If in immediate danger, it is necessary you call 911. However, if you are not, calling a local police department can provide information on local domestic violence organizations and shelters. Additionally, there is assistance available nationwide through hotlines such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline and advocacy groups that can help you find a way out.

Another significant method used in the prevention of repeated abuse is GPS technology. With statistics demonstrating its strength on curbing DV, this navigational beacon is coming to the forefront of addressing this disturbing personal and societal issue. If you would like to learn how GPS tracking technology can be an effective tool in your fight against domestic violence, please read on.

What is domestic violence?

Because most people misunderstand what constitutes domestic violence, it is important that you are provided a comprehensive definition.

Women’s Advocates defines DV as the following: “Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, economic class, immigration status, religion, or gender. It can happen to couples that are married, living together, or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.”

How can GPS tracking technology help curb domestic violence?

According to a Washington Post investigation, 46% of the 4,484 murdered women over the last decade were killed by an intimate partner. Although warning signs precede most of these preventable murders, the Bureau of Justice reports that only 14.9% of victims receive assistance from a victim service agency. Fear of retaliation by the abuser, uncertainty of support by authorities, or lack of information are a few of the reasons victims are reluctant in coming forward to request help or obtain a restraining order.

Although a restraining order, or order of protection, may provide some sense of security, reports indicate almost two-thirds of them are violated. While a restraining order itself, falls short, the addition of GPS tracking strengthens the protection of restraining orders as demonstrated by a Florida State University study. The study’s researchers found that GPS-monitored offenders are 94.7% less likely to commit a new crime.

Understanding the effectiveness of GPS technology in preventing repeat offenses, legislators in 40 states have passed laws permitting its use in the form of an ankle bracelet worn by the offender. This anklet contains a GPS receiver and communication device, typically a cellular modem. The GPS receiver detects the device’s location every minute or so using signals from a network of global positioning satellites. The cellular connection then transmits that data to a monitoring center, providing authorities a real-time depiction of the wearer’s movements.

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Defining restricted areas for the wearer is completed through geofencing technology. While wearing the device a person may be allowed to move about in specific locations or within a certain radius of an area. However, if the wearer approaches any restricted areas such as homes or schools, the monitoring device will alert authorities.

In addition, a GPS tracking device can be worn by the victim, if he or she chooses, which would protect him or her on the move and allow for the marking of locations as prohibited. If both parties are wearing or in possession of the GPS device, alarms will sound alerting the victim and notifying authorities if the abuser crosses the boundaries, and comes within a specified distance from the victim.

It’s a fact that if you own a cellphone, you’re being tracked. But have you ever wondered who is tracking you and how much they can actually see? In this episode of Komando on Demand, Kim looks at who is spying on us and how, if possible, we can hide from them in order to maintain our data and privacy. Kim also talks to Richard Eilert, an expert in geolocation and geofencing and how your location means big bucks for companies.

What about privacy concerns?

There are groups concerned about using GPS technology to track domestic violence offenders and consider it an attack on one’s privacy. According to a 2015 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the use of electronic monitoring is a search under the Fourth Amendment. The court’s decision sets forth a person is entitled to due process before being placed on GPS monitoring.

Lower courts are satisfying this requirement by either a domestic violence conviction or a pre-trial hearing in which the probability of threat is assessed. However, there are modified GPS approaches that appear to avoid the ‘search’ component and do not infringe on one’s constitutional right to privacy. These new technologies include ‘reverse tagging’ and ‘filtering’ which only record an offender’s data when (s)he is within a restricted area determined by the protection order.

Don’t let yourself or someone you know or love become a domestic violence statistic; help is out there. Please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. The organization provides support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If the victim is in immediate danger call 911.

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