Using GPS devices to track domestic violence offenders may not be as safe for victims as originally thought, according to a large-scale experiment by the Queensland Police Service (QPS).
- The trackers are designed to send live alerts to authorities or the victim
- QPS conducted a trial of the technology, running 35 different scenarios
- 51 per cent sent successful alerts, 23 per cent were partially successful and 26 per cent failed
A series of tests found live alerts were only successful in half of all simulated breaches, with one in four not even detected at all.
Last year, Queensland allowed courts to fit domestic violence (DV) offenders with electronic monitoring devices as part of their bail conditions, after recommendations in the 2015 “Not Now, Not Ever” report.
The technology is designed to send a series of live alerts to authorities, or even the victim, if an offender is approaching or has moved into a restricted zone.
As part of the trial, 35 different scenarios were modelled by police officers in mock-up scenarios.
Of the various tests, 51 per cent sent successful alerts, 23 per cent were partially successful — meaning they sent at least one alert — but 26 per cent failed to send an alert at all.
“The findings demonstrate electronic monitoring alone does not provide a sufficient risk-mitigation solution for high-risk Domestic and Family Violence perpetrators and is not an effective or reliable substitute for a robust perpetrator management framework,” the report said.
Results ‘quite disturbing’: Domestic violence advocate
Betty Taylor from the Red Rose Foundation said DV lobby groups were always cautious about considering trackers as a one-stop measure, but never thought the results would be this poor.
“I found that quite disturbing,” she said.
“I didn’t believe they were going to be a fail-safe but I didn’t think the failure would be quite that high.
The trackers are supposed to send a live alert to authorities, or even the victim, if an offender is approaching. (Flickr: European Parliament)
“My original concerns were around the expectations of victims of domestic violence — that this would actually be keeping them safe.
“I believe that we’re at the stage now where Queensland has invested a lot of money and resources … around victims and support, but I think we need a really comprehensive approach to domestic violence offenders.
“We can’t rely on one single thing like trackers or bail conditions, I think we need to go back to the drawing board.”
The QPS report found a number of issues were to blame for the ineffective results, including faulty equipment, poor connectivity, technical problems or “drift”, which even resulted in false alerts, where no breach had occurred.
Electronic monitoring not a stand-alone solution: Minister
A separate report by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety found electronic monitoring devices were reducing offending overall, but should be considered as part of a broader strategy, because of their limitations.
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer said while monitoring devices were valuable tool, they were only part of the government’s response strategy.
“The reports are also clear that GPS monitoring is not a stand-alone solution, it needs to be part of a wider approach,” she said.
“The reports confirm that the Queensland Government’s approach is the right one, and it’s why a wide-ranging and integrated approach to electronic monitoring is necessary to ensure the safety of Queenslanders.
“Since the release of the Not Now, Not Ever report in 2015, we have invested $328.9 million over six years to deliver the report’s recommendations,”
While GPS devices allowed police to track domestic violence offenders on bail, parolees for other crimes like sexual assaults were typically monitored under a different system where locations were tracked but not in real time.