Domestic violence group concerned over suspension of GPS monitoring

Updated:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

A group that helps victims escape from domestic violence is worried about what suspending GPS monitoring will mean.

Starting Wednesday, the courts in Orange and Osceola counties will no longer put GPS monitors on suspects.

Chief Judge Belvin Perry suspended the program Tuesday, after a wanted man cut off his monitor on Sunday.

With GPS and home confinement programs suspended, there's a big concern about who or what is going to protect victims of domestic violence.

The director of the Harbor House shelter said it's further validation that the system has failed.

Police said Wilfred Gregory ripped the GPS monitor off of his ankle after shooting a man on Sunday. They said they didn't learn about the GPS being removed until several hours after the incident.

That communication breakdown exposed a potential fatal flaw for domestic violence victims.

"It seemed odd this private company was ordered by the judges to monitor these defendants," said Laura Williams.

Williams is a domestic violence survivor and victim advocate.

Two years ago she sounded the alarm that private companies were failing to track suspects.

Now the Ninth Judicial Circuit's GPS program is suspended for that reason.

"We absolutely need oversight for GPS and home confinement programs to protect the community," said Williams.

While one of the last lines of defense is sidelined and under review, there are other options for victims.

Harbor House is the largest secure shelter in all of Orange County. In an undisclosed location, it provides a safe haven for men, women and children.

At any given time, Carol Wick's program protects vulnerable victims at a fortified compound.

We're helping the victims who are frightened or fearful of that person who's now on the street," said Wick.

Wick also points to a separate GPS monitoring and alert system for civil domestic cases. It started in February. She said it is working.

"You have a floating buffer zone around you no matter where you are," said Wick.

To get a domestic violence suspect fitted with a GPS monitor in Orange and Osceola counties, the victim must first file a civil injunction with the court. Harbor House can help facilitate that.