By Maura Kelly
Last month, 26-year-old Rebecca Griego was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Jonathan Rowan, as she sat in her administrative office at the University of Washington. Rowan had previously threatened to harm Griego, her sister, and their dogs, and she had gotten a restraining order. She'd also passed out pictures of him to her co-workers so they could serve Rowan the order if he showed up at the campus. And she'd moved to a new apartment and started working from home for two weeks before her death. None of this, of course, helped her.
What might have? In fact, Washington had a good tool in place: a state law that allows judges to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of a restraining order. When judges so order, the police can keep tabs on abusers with a technology best known to people who are bad with directions: the global positioning system.
Just as GPS can find a lost driver, it can also alert cops and targets whenever a domestic-violence offender enters a restricted zone, like the area surrounding a woman's home or office. Police put an electronic bracelet on the batterer that sends a signal to computer servers at headquarters if he goes anywhere he shouldn't. Then, if he violates a restraining order, they can call the woman to let her know that he is on his uninvited way. The idea is to buy women crucial time, even if it's only minutes, so they can get away. The notification loop also kicks in if the offender tries to remove or deactivate the bracelet.
Here’s another issue that it’s not easy to make jokes about. If you skip past the first few paragraphs, this could be the plot for a sequel to Shia LeBouf’s psychological thriller Disturbia. The author mentions that there are some privacy issues in tracking and monitoring people. No one is going to argue that there has to be something that can be done to keep people safe from recidivist criminals. On the other hand, their debt to society has supposedly been paid. There is no easy solution to this one. Maybe deportation would work, though Canada and Mexico probably would not appreciate us sending them our worst citizens.