Types of GPS Monitoring

There are two types of GPS tracking: active and passive.

Passive monitoring is not recommended for use with stalkers and violent offenders. Usually the offender wears a device 24 hours a day but the monitoring official might only receive an offender’s location information once a day when the offender uploads it from home.

Active tracking provides real‐time location of the offender 24 hours a day. However, active monitoring is only effective if an administrator continually monitors the location of offenders, 24/7. In some places, monitoring is done by corrections or local police officers who know the offender and the victim while other communities outsource this function to a vendor that works elsewhere.

An electronic monitoring program can set up “exclusion zones” around the victim’s home, work, etc., and an enrolled offender may not enter those geographic areas. If the offender enters those zones, an alert can be immediately sent to the monitor.

Some systems notify the victim with a pager if the offender enters any exclusion zone. Other systems track the victim’s real‐time location by using GPS on the victim’s pager device. If the victim is not in the exclusion zone and the offender comes near the victim, the system will typically alert both the monitoring official and the victim. The offender can also be contacted and police can be dispatched.

An outside company can be hired to monitor the offender. SecureAlert and isecuretrac are two companies that provide offender-monitoring services.

GPS can also be used to alert the victim whenever an offender has violated an order of protection. This can give the victim an opportunity and time to leave the area where her potential attacker is and alert police that she is in danger. Active GPS has victim alert capabilities. GPS technology does, however, have weaknesses that require extra police support. GPS devices do not cover telephone conversations, email or U.S. mail; therefore, the state should provide the victim with a device to record when the batterer calls her home and collect all emails and U.S. mail.

Active judicial monitoring in combination with the immediate response monitoring should be used in order to reduce the number of repeat offenses. Once a judge releases a defendant on probation he should maintain an active role in monitoring the defendant’s case. Follow-up hearings, graduated sanctions and coordination among involved parties send the message that the defendant remains accountable even once he is released, and help courts fashion the most appropriate response to each individual case. An offender cannot run or play basketball with a one-piece device and is required to stay stationary for thirty minutes at least twice a day to charge the battery. The one-piece is also more easily circumvented than two-piece devices because they do not have the extra protection of RF between the PTU and the bracelet, and one-piece units attach to the ankle, meaning the device is close to the ground and subject to greater obstruction.

The GPS technology must sometimes be adapted for rural or urban areas. In rural areas a potential problem for GPS technology is a lack of cell towers. This problem can be circumvented through Wireless LAN technology that can access the Internet and eliminate some cellular problems, and radio frequency identification, which is free, works indoors and is already well established. Additionally, dead reckoning sensors based on speed or direction work well indoors and eliminate the problem of losing signals in car rides.

Another potential problem in rural areas does not have to do with the logistics of the technology, but the fact that there may only be one or very few businesses and establishments that both the victim and offender must frequent, such as a grocery store or bank. In order to combat this dilemma, the victim should be able to choose the best times for her to access necessities, and the batterer should be limited to presence on the commercial property only at times outside the victim’s chosen times.

Urban areas present a problem for GPS monitoring due to the fact that GPS receives weaker signals indoors. However, when the batterer may be frequently entering and exiting buildings, television frequencies can supplement to provide stronger indoor coverage.


The critical tradeoff is clear. That state should increase the quality of life and safety of domestic violence victims with a GPS program rather than let a batterer continue to terrorize his victim when she has done everything to protect herself. Moreover, the monetary costs:

  • Are far lower than the cost of incarceration: According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, incarceration of one inmate costs $62 a day. GPS costs about $10 a day. Can be offset by requiring the batterer to contribute to the costs. The Judge can order wage garnishment to ensure compliance with payment requirements.
  • If the defendant cannot afford to help cover costs, he can be required to perform community service of equivalent value. A judge ordering the offender to pay for GPS monitoring should take into account the effect of such an order on the victim if she is dependent on the offender’s continued payment of child support or maintenance.
  • Pay off in reducing the staggering costs created by domestic violence. A murder trial alone costsvi
  • Violence and homicide are likely results if the batterer is not monitored, because GPS is only used in highly dangerous situations. If the batterer commits a crime while on parole (and not on GPS), the state would be responsible for the investigation, prosecution, and prison costs.vii