Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Da Wants to Use GPS to Protect Victims from Their Abusers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Da Wants to Use GPS to Protect Victims from Their Abusers

Article excerpt

Stephen A. Zappala Jr. wants to put domestic abusers into virtual jail cells.

To do that, the Allegheny County district attorney is working to provide courts with the ability to order GPS-equipped anklets, similar to those used in house arrests, that would alert victims and authorities if a defendant entered designated restricted zones, such as areas near a victim's home or workplace.

"We're putting the defendant in a virtual cell and freeing up the victim," Mr. Zappala said, adding that he would instruct police officers to immediately arrest people who enter restricted zones.

At a county budget hearing Thursday, Mr. Zappala sought $41,000 to hire a paralegal to assist with the program. Earlier that day, he touted the initiative at sexual assault and child abuse training for 113 municipal police officers in Allegheny County.

Once the funding is in place, Mr. Zappala said, about 100 people could be quickly fitted with devices made by offender-monitoring company BI Inc., which will meet with county officials soon to discuss the program.

An analyst from the Department of Human Services and a team of prosecutors, victim advocates and police would determine eligibility for monitoring as a condition of pretrial release or probation by looking at batterer's court and family division court defendants' backgrounds and likelihood of repeating offenses.

The most dangerous men, however, should not be eligible for the program, said Shirl Regan, president and CEO of The Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

"They are going to break the law no matter what," she said.

Incarcerating a perpetrator costs the county about $80 per day, as opposed to a $2.50 to $3.50 daily fee to track his location, Mr. Zappala said.

Before the tracking devices could be used, a court order would be needed to allow the district attorney to establish a sliding scale to determine a defendant's costs, likely up to $10 a day, he said. …

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