GPS monitoring helps domestic violence victims not live in fear

Flagler County Sheriff's Office 1 of several local agencies using monitors

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office recently added a high-tech tool to its arsenal to keep a closer eye on those previously convicted of domestic violence by monitoring their every move.

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Victims of domestic violence often have little more than a piece of paper to protect them from their attackers.

But some local agencies -- like the Flagler County Sheriff's Office -- are working to change that.

Flagler County has been using a GPS ankle monitoring system for domestic violence offenders since last November. A judge can make wearing the monitor a condition of a suspect's release on bond, and the rules of the monitors are designed to protect accusers.

Roy Carlisi landed himself in an ankle monitor last month after he was charged with domestic battery and assault. Deputies said he attacked his wife, knocking out some of her teeth.  

Deputies said Carlisi's wife told them he attacked her, "grabbed her by the throat and threw her to the ground, repeatedly banging her head against the floor."

Carlisi called 911 multiple times to ask for an ambulance – but he was reluctant to say what for. The screams in the background brought deputies to the 43-year-old's home, where they found him with the teeth in his pocket.

'Sad truth of it'

Flagler County Deputy Braxton Wall said he sees situations like this way too often.

"Honestly, the sad truth of it," he said, shaking his head, "it's pretty much an everyday occurrence."

News4Jax rode with Braxton on patrol and within a few minutes of climbing into his squad car, his radio squawked for a domestic disturbance call.

"It could be something as simple as an argument -- they're hitting each other with their hands and fists -- to somebody is using a gun,” he said of the countless times he's responded to these types of calls. “I mean, you just -- you never know."

Now Braxton and other Flagler County law enforcement personnel can better protect the victims of domestic violence by watching every step the suspected offenders make through the ankle monitoring program.

Following the dots

Flagler County Jail Cmdr. Glenn Davis showed News4Jax how the device works.

He explained that VeriTracks, the company that supplies the ankle bands, also monitors the domestic violence suspects wearing them. VeriTracks then sends that information electronically to the jail, 911 dispatchers and deputies.

Davis has his computer set up to show him where accused offenders are every five minutes -- around the clock. But that interval can be altered when necessary.

"If we're trying to track a person, I can increase (the signal) to send (us a person's position) every second,” he said.

Red dots pop up on his computer screen, showing exactly where someone is, whether they're stationary, driving or walking while wearing the ankle monitor.

"Our units in their patrol car can pull this up on their laptops," he explained, pointing at the advancing red dots, "and they can follow and find out where this person is within 3 to 5 feet."

Sounding the alarm

A suspected offender can set off the ankle monitor alarm three ways, alerting 911 dispatchers that something is amiss.

First, an “exclusion zone” is set up, typically around the accuser's home, and the wearer is not allowed within 500 feet of that zone. If they violate that distance, authorities are alerted right away.

Sheriff Rick Staly said one of the best parts of the system is that the alarm not only dispatches deputies, but the victim is also automatically called and warned that the accused attacker is close by.

The person wearing the ankle monitor also has to keep it charged. If the GPS device battery is too low, an alarm will sound, sending deputies to track the person down, often with a warning -- the first time.

The wearer snaps the charging base onto the bottom of the ankle monitor with an AC cord that stretches about 5 feet to a wall outlet or other power source.

Finally, if the wearer tampers with the ankle monitor, from trying to loosen it to cutting it off, deputies are dispatched immediately.

Carlisi violated two of those rules, deputies said.

Booking photo of Roy Carlisi (photo courtesy of the Flagler County Sheriff's Office).

First, Carlisi returned to his "exclusion zone" less than 2 hours after he was released on bond, landing him back in jail, deputies said.

After he was released again, wearing another ankle monitor, Carlisi was arrested a third time because he cut off the monitor, deputies said.

Carlisi's bond has been revoked and he's sitting in jail awaiting his next court appearance.

Keeping victims safe

Staly said Carlisi's case is the extreme, but it's proof the system they're now using is working. Staly stressed that the program focuses on the victims over the violators.

The sheriff pledged to focus on fighting domestic violence when he became the top cop in Flagler County in January 2017, calling a community summit to find ways to combat and curb the problem.

Two years later, Staly said, he and other area law enforcement are seeing results.

"(Overall,) domestic violence has come down almost 14%," Staly said with a smile, "so I think we have finally turned the curve. … (We're) certainly not ready to declare victory yet, but this is just one piece that helps us impact domestic violence and keep the victims safe."

As part of the program, the Flagler County Sheriff's Office has partnered with the Bunnell Police Department, the Flagler Beach Police Department, the State Attorney's Office, and the 7th Judicial Circuit to implement the pretrial GPS monitoring program.

Those who must wear the ankle monitors also pay for the operating expense, which costs $5.25 per day.

News4Jax asked law enforcement agencies around the area and found the sheriff's offices in Duval, St. Johns and Putnam counties use an ankle monitoring system for domestic violence offenders, too. And Alachua County has a similar program in place through the county's court services.

About the Authors:

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.