State Watch

GPS devices used on accused violent offenders deactivated over coronavirus budget cuts

A GPS ankle bracelet program used to protect victims of domestic violence and sex crimes was deactivated earlier this month in Memphis, Tenn., due to budget cuts partially caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The notification was provided in a letter sent by the Memphis Police Department (MPD) to local criminal court judges, according to documents obtained by a local CBS affiliate WREG this week.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the MPD budget, and due to constraints, all GPS devices which were related to the program were deactivated effectively May 1, 2020,” the letter said.

The now-deactivated program provided ankle monitors to people accused of domestic violence or sex crimes when they are released on bond.

The primary purpose of the GPS tracking was to monitor the wearers to ensure they do not enter close proximity with their alleged victims, otherwise alerting law enforcement.

Memphis Police Department Deputy Chief Don Crowe said it was a three-year program provided by grant money, adding that it was “absolutely successful,” before the program ended last summer, the report added.

Crowe said the department tried to prolong the program by spending $140,000 of its own money for the current fiscal year in an effort to phase it out, but could not afford it when the COVID-19 outbreak hit the state, WREG reported.

As of April 6, a reported 131 accused offenders were administered the GPS trackers by the department.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said law enforcement contacted the victims and notified the judges of the deactivated GPS trackers, the report added.

Weirich said the now-shuttered program “can save lives,” adding that “somebody needs to pick up the $600,000 to keep this program going.”

The Memphis Police Department said the state could consider adopting the program for full statewide implementation, but also said it’s possible someone could locally fund the program’s cost, according to WREG.

Shelby County’s pretrial services will reportedly continue monitoring alleged offenders through other means, such as phone calls.

Tags GPS tracking unit Memphis, Tennessee Surveillance

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