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Use GPS to restrain batterers
In November 2004, Shennel Mc­Kendall was shot and killed by her husband in a parking lot at UNC Hospitals, her place of work. She had gotten a restraining order against him three weeks before, which he first violated the day after it was served.

That horrific act brought statewide attention to a recurring problem in domestic violence cases: The number of people who violate restraining orders while awaiting trial and then remain free to do more harm.

It also spurred interest in an innovative pilot program in Pitt County to use Global Positioning Systems to monitor protection violators — and to keep them away from their likely victims.

Programs such as the one in Pitt County caught the attention of Harvard Law School lecturer Diane Rosenfeld. She successfully lobbied the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law giving judges the authority to order the use of GPS to track protection violators. It also allows for prison time if the GPS system is breached. Now, other states are considering passing similar laws. Why not North Carolina?

GPS seems tailor-made for domestic violence cases. It can be used to exclude the violator from geographic zones where the likely victim lives and works. The device not only can alert the police if the offender enters such a zone, it can alert the victim.

So far, GPS used this way has an excellent track record. In a Massachusetts GPS program with 42 cases of people deemed at risk to break protective orders, compliance has been 100 percent. Pitt also has had success. It has seen its 36 percent recidivism rate for domestic abuse offenders to 11.5 percent for those being tracked by GPS. (The county makes the offenders pay for the monitoring.)

The Pitt program has been expanded into four other North Carolina counties. The General Assembly’s Joint Task Force on Domestic Violence meets Thursday. Expansion of the state’s pilot GPS program and a law similar to the one in Massachusetts should be on its agenda for discussion.