Legis. Kara Hahn addresses speakers during the public comment portion...

Legis. Kara Hahn addresses speakers during the public comment portion of a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature on March 24, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Suffolk County probation department would move to expand use of GPS devices to monitor people with protective orders against them under legislation before the county legislature.

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), sponsor of the plan, said it was aimed at strengthening domestic violence protections. "We're finding a way to make an order of protection more than a piece of paper," Hahn said. The bills passed the Public Safety Committee Thursday and will be up for a vote Tuesday before the full legislature.

The legislation would direct Suffolk to seek expressions of interest from private vendors for 30 "proximity devices" that would alert victims when the subjects of protective orders are nearby.

A GPS device would be fixed to the ankle of the subject, and another device would be carried by the victim, Hahn said. The devices would alert the victim and probation officers if an order of protection is violated.

The legislation would instruct the probation department to recommend GPS-monitoring devices to judges in domestic violence cases involving an order of protection.

Deputy County Executive Tim Sini said the department began recommending GPS devices in all domestic violence cases a few months ago, but this would formalize the policy. The devices would be funded through county district attorney's asset forfeiture program.

The pilot program also would authorize the use of GPS devices in Family Court cases involving orders of protection. Currently, they're used primarily in cases in District Court.

Sini said the GPS devices each cost $4.40 per day to lease and are monitored by probation employees. Existing staff is expected to be able to monitor the extra devices, Sini said. Out of 64 active GPS devices operated by probation, six were in use in domestic violence cases as of May 1, he said.

Brenda de Jong, a coordinator with Hauppauge-based domestic violence service group The Retreat, said, "The use of GPS monitoring, in certain high-risk cases, will increase the support and protection provided to victims of domestic violence."

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