How Knox County uses GPS to track domestic violence offenders

How Knox County uses GPS to track domestic violence offenders

A sample of GPS devices A sample of GPS devices

6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- More than 2,600 orders of protection were granted in Knoxville and Knox County in 2009.

At the same time, some national numbers indicate as many as one-quarter of all women killed by their abusers had restraining orders.

More information on domestic violence

The Family Justice Center in Knoxville offers this information to educate people on domestic violence.

With numbers like this, 6 News asked officials if more should be done?

We found that at least 12 states have adopted laws requiring violent domestic violence offenders with restraining orders to also wear a GPS tracking device.

It's not a law in Tennessee, but it's being used on a case-by-case basis in Knox County. 

Todd Cook oversees Knox County's pre-trial and release program, which includes the GPS tracking devices. "Any time big brother is watching, people change what they do and how they act."

Cook showed 6 News how they track people using three electronic monitoring devices. At the time of our report, five devices were assigned in Knox County. Two of those were in domestic violence cases.

"I think these bracelets have been extremely effective, but we are very picky in Knox County. We don't just put anybody on a bracelet," Cook says.

6 News also spoke with Amy Dilworth, executive director of The Family Justice Center. She says she and others are watching the effectiveness of these devices.

One thing the GPS devices have provided in many cases is more accountability. "For those who don't (follow the rules), now you have evidence and premeditation." Dilworth says. That information could be vital in court.

But despite the benefits of using electronic monitoring, Cook and Dilworth are quick to point out victims should never let down their guard.

A bracelet will do little to protect anyone from an attack. "If somebody wants to do something, wants to commit murder, a GPS is not going to keep them from doing that," Dilworth says.

Experts say every victim should always have a safety plan, and a GPS or an order of protection is just a tool, not a solution.

According to a report from the New York Times, the American Civil Liberties union has complained that allowing the judge to decide if an offender should wear a GPS is giving a judge too much leeway.

But again, that's how it's currently done in Knox County.

In Knox County, the offender pays for the electronic monitoring, which costs about $10 a day.

The cost of housing an inmate in the Knox County Jail is about $76 a day.

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