Law enforcement communities around the United States have adapted GPS technology for a variety of purposes, from tracking credit card skimmers to “sabotaging” stolen bags of money. Now a police department in England has followed suit with a plan that involves using GPS devices to track violent individuals convicted of domestic abuse.
Northumbria Police is one of the largest forces in the United Kingdom, covering more than 2,000 square miles in northeast England. This past summer it launched a pilot program to fit convicted domestic abusers with GPS tracking devices. While participation is currently voluntary, a successful trial run could result in the program being picked up by other police forces or becoming a condition of bail.
Convicts who agree to join the program have a tag secured to their ankle and also receive a handheld unit. Geofencing can then be used to set up exclusion zones around the victim’s home, place of work, and any other favorite locations. In addition, a mobile zone could be set up to cover the victim while moving from place to place.
If the convict violates any of the exclusion zones, the action triggers a signal to a monitoring center, which in turn sends an alert to the victim. Local police can be notified as well if needed to defuse a potentially threatening encounter.
Data shows that cases of domestic abuse have escalated in England, making up 14 percent of total criminal cases that reach the courts. According to Det. Insp. Phil Bond of Northumbria Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Department, the program offers a measure of safety for victims while serving as a deterrent to the violators who know that their movements are being tracked.
Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird expressed support for the program, saying it could possibly save lives. She went on to say that, “Protecting victims is a priority for me,” welcoming the use of modern technology to augment traditional police procedures.
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