Utah lawmaker wants GPS tracking for domestic violence cases

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A Utah lawmaker is drafting legislation to strengthen the ability of Utah courts to require GPS monitoring in situations of domestic violence.

“Police don’t have the resources to be enforcing every protective order,” said Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy.

Spendlove said he is currently drafting legislation that will be introduced during the upcoming legislative session to make it easier for judge’s to impose around-the-clock tracking of defendants.

“This tool is not being used because it’s difficult to administer or it’s difficult to collect,” he said. “We’ve got to be strengthening that and protecting those victims.”

Electronic monitoring would give protective orders more teeth, Spendlove said. He described a system where police and victims receive real-time notifications.

“If someone came too close it would ping their cellphone and tell them, ‘This person is too close. You need to get out of here,’” Spendlove explained. “At the same time it would ping law enforcement and say, ‘You need to be going here to respond to this violation.’”

He anticipates that in many cases, the judge will order the perpetrators to pay the cost of their own monitoring, unless they are financially unable to do so.

“There could be a little bit of a cost,” he said about taxpayers’ portion of the cost. “But it’s certainly going to be a lot less than the cost of a murder.”

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition supports the Spendlove’s proposed legislation.

“It makes total sense and when you weigh out the ethics of it, it’s unquestionable,” said the coalition’s executive director, Jenn Oxborrow. “We need to do more to hold people accountable.”

GPS monitoring has proven to be effective in other states, Oxborrow said. She argues that the cost to implement the technology on a wider scale in Utah would pale in comparison to the cost of violence.

“The cost of those crimes in our communities is enormous,” she said.

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