The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 14, 2014

Our View: Domestic violence program worthwhile

Why it matters: An innovative program to track threats of domestic violence can only help protect victims

Domestic violence is a crime that has a high cost for even a small number of occurrences, and so programs to curtail the risk of incidents — even small numbers — are worthwhile.

So a new program that uses GPS monitoring of victims and perpetrators has merit. The program is being tested in Ramsey County and relies on GPS to alert both victims and former perpetrators of their proximity to each other. It reminds perpetrators of their court ordered no contact agreement and gives victims a chance to seek safety if they know their former abuser is getting close.

Both participants must volunteer for the program. That most likely alleviates some constitutional questions on crime and punishment, but also allows perpetrators an option to help themselves overcome their violent tendencies. It’s a constant reminder of what they are capable of and what behavior they are trying to prevent. Defendants wear an ankle bracelet and victims carry a stalker alert device that is somewhat bigger than a cellphone.

When a defendant gets near his victim, an alert is sent to the victim to seek safety and a message is sent to the defendant to go home.

The results from Ramsey County after a year of testing show some promise. While only 19 of 170 defendants who were eligible participated, the data shows those wearing the bracelet were less likely to violate the court order for protection and less likely to re-offend compared to those who did not use the system.

Ramsey County is asking to extend its pilot program to gather more data. The Legislature will consider a bill authored by Rep. Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, that would extend the current Ramsey County program and set standards for other jurisdictions to set up their own monitoring program.

Approval of such legislation would be a good first step to what should be a larger effort by the state to not only keep victims of domestic violence safe but prevent more incidents from happening. One or two cases of domestic violence can result in death of victims. The Mankato area has witnessed far too many of these cases in recent years. Improving our response to domestic violence and its prevention should be a continual and on going effort.

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