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Bill would keep domestic violence perpetrators away from victims

SALT LAKE CITY — High profile murders in the state of Utah have some lawmakers asking, “How can the state do a better job keeping perpetrators of domestic violence away from their victims?”

One legislator is drafting a bill that he believes can potentially save lives.

Even if a victim of domestic violence takes out a protective order against a potential attacker, that order can’t always force a person to obey it.  In too many cases, the attacker stalks their victim without anyone knowing.

Representative Robert Spendlove says judges in Utah already have the authority to require someone to wear a GPS tracking device if they want to monitor where that person goes.  However, Spendlove says judges don’t always choose this option.

He says, “The goal of this [bill] is to really encourage this and to give courts more tools to enforce this.”

According to Spendlove, the technology exists to ensure a victim would know if a potential abuser is near.

“It would ping their cell phone to tell them that this person is close and you need to get out of here.  At the same time, it would ping law enforcement and say, ‘You need to be going here to respond to this violation,” he adds.

Spendlove believes if this technology had been used in recent years, some domestic violence murders could have been prevented.  For instance, he says it’s possible Lauren McCluskey and Memorez Rackley may be alive had they known where their killers were.  Police say McCluskey was shot and killed by Melvin Rowland on the campus of the University of Utah. Rackley and her six-year-old son, police say, were gunned down by Jeremy Patterson, whom Rackley had dated.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition is helping to draft the bill.  Executive Director Jenn Oxborrow believes she knows why more judges don’t order someone to wear a GPS tracking device.

“A lot of times, these bills that are wonderful ideas that have proven to be effective in other places get hung up because of the cost associated with implementing that.  How are we going to pay for this?” she says.

If the bill were to pass, the attackers might be required to pay for the devices.  Oxborrow says this could cost a lot of money, but, the human cost of domestic violence is much higher.

“If you weigh out the cost-benefit analysis on this, it makes total sense,” she says.