Suffolk lawmakers have voted to expand the county's use of GPS technology in domestic violence cases, directing the probation department to consider providing victims with tracking devices to notify them when their attackers are near.
Legislation approved Tuesday on a unanimous vote directs the county probation department to seek expressions of interest from private vendors who could provide up to 30 "proximity detectors." Domestic violence victims would carry the devices, which would track GPS devices on offenders' ankle bracelets.
Probation officials would request that judges mandate people with orders of protection against them to wear the GPS devices.
Under the legislation, the detectors and GPS devices would be used for the first time in Family Court cases where there are orders of protection. Currently, they're only used in District Court.
"The proximity detector will create a much stronger feeling of safety wherever the victim is," Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the bill's sponsor, said after the vote.
The additional GPS tracking devices will be paid for by the district attorney's asset forfeiture fund.
Also Tuesday, the legislature refused to set public hearings on privatizing the last county-run health clinic, in Riverhead, after the newly elected leadership of the county's largest employee union asked for a delay.
County Executive Steve Bellone's administration had wanted to move forward with the transfer of management to Hudson River HealthCare. The move would save Suffolk $11.5 million over five years, according to a county fiscal impact report.
Leaders of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees who will take office July 1 asked for more time to talk to county workers at the clinic, and to inform lawmakers about what they find. The slate of new leaders, elected last month, had campaigned against privatization of the county clinics.
"Step back from the rush. Give this the time it deserves," said Kathy Malloy, a retired county worker and member of the slate's transition team.
Suffolk County has budgeted for the transition to Hudson River Healthcare to occur Sept. 1. Also, county officials say the health center faces an Oct. 1 federal deadline to begin using electronic medical records.
"Any time you delay something that will save taxpayers $11 million, it's disappointing," said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider. He noted that the administration was not asking for final approval of the transfer, but to set informational meetings for May 27 and May 28.
Schneider said all 46 full-time employees at the Riverhead health clinic will get other county jobs at the same title and pay. They are protected by a countywide no-layoff clause that lasts through 2016.
Bellone has received legislative approval to privatize seven other county-owned health clinics.