Provincial funding for Red Deer’s pilot program to monitor domestic violence offenders with GPS ankle bracelets has come to an end.
But a GPS panic button program for domestic violence victims will continue, along with domestic violence treatment for offenders, the community’s collaborative approach between agencies assisting victims, local RCMP, and Crown prosecutors, and high-risk case conferencing.
Ian Wheeliker, executive director of Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, said the offender monitoring program will wind down this month with the last two offenders finishing up their probation.
“I don’t think that during this election campaign we’re going to have any good news about new money or new programs,” Wheeliker said.
He said a grant application was made through Family and Community Safety programs, but $20 million available from the province was cut down to about $4 million in last provincial month’s budget.
Since January, the ankle bracelet program has been running on surplus funding accumulated when it wasn’t running at full capacity and when it was temporarily shut down last spring.
The three-year, $450,000 project officially ended in March 2013. Since then funding was extended twice.
Ten ankle monitors were available through the program for serious domestic violence offenders who were found guilty and had probation orders.
Ankle monitors, equipped with a built-in cellphone and radio frequency, were tracked constantly.
They alerted police if offenders went near or into an area they were not allowed (like a victim’s house or workplace), disobeyed court-ordered curfews, and if monitors were damaged in an effort to take them off.
Wheeliker said the program has so much potential in the field of corrections and domestic violence that he expects it’s just a question of time before bracelets are in use again and expanded throughout the province.
“There is one type of offender and victim it made a huge difference for. That is what I call the relentless domestic violence offender. They’re like a stalker. They continuously monitor the activity at the house or monitor her and follow her around. This technology was very effective in dealing with that particular type of domestic case and gave the victim in those cases the ability to sleep at night.
“For that relentless abuser, it will save the system money. You cannot convince me otherwise because those abusers are the ones police get the calls on time after time. It ties up police investigation time, police call time. It ties up the courts.”
He said there were few relentless offenders monitored during the pilot program, but tracking data on those offenders could not be disputed.
The panic button program, which connects women to 911 with the push of a button on a small cellphone device, will continue this year with $10,000 from the Victims of Crime funding and $10,000 from the local fundraiser Golf a Kid to Cure.
The program has been running for five years with 30 GPS devices in Central Alberta and there’s been about 10 times when police were required.
Unlike the offender bracelet program that only operated in Red Deer, panic buttons alert 911, which contacts the police jurisdiction operating wherever that woman is in Canada.
Wheeliker said police respond in about 15 minutes and there has been no serious situations where someone has been harmed.
“The times where (women) needed it, it has worked. They really feel there is value in that program so we’re happy we’re able to continue on with that.”