Getting Results on Crime: Domestic violence suspects tracked

Reginald Gardner was arrested by Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies on Feb. 2. Deputies say he battered his girlfriend with an ax.

Gardner's pre-trial release was conditional upon deputies fitting him with an electronic monitoring bracelet. A judge ordered Gardner to participate in S.H.I.E.L.D. - Surviving Harmful Interactions Through Electronic Location Devices.

"We affix it to someone who's been arrested for a domestic violence incident," said Sgt. Keith Miller, head of SHIELD. "It'll send an alert to the handheld unit which notifies us immediately."

Miller said the bracelet, through a pocket-sized cellular transmitter, sends real-time location information to the Marion County Sheriff's Office. If a suspect removes the bracelet or violates exclusion zones - perimeters around a victim's home, work, children's school or daycare - deputies and the Sheriff's Office are alerted immediately and respond immediately. Patrols are dispatched not just to the last known location of the suspect's tracking bracelet but also the victim's location.

"We've had offenders who have tested the waters, like how close can I get to the victim before this alerts or how fast the response will be," said Miller.

Deputies also have the ability to talk to suspects wearing the monitoring devices through the cellular transmitter.

Miller said the SHIELD program gives Marion County judges the authority to order a suspect to wear the monitoring device if the judge feels the suspect is a threat to family members or friends.

Currently, 14 suspects arrested for domestic violence and released on bond are being monitored through SHIELD.

Reginald Gardner was one of those suspects, until deputies say he cut off the bracelet and seven days later battered his girlfriend again. Gardner has since been re-arrested.

Governor Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law that makes cutting off a monitoring device a felony.

SHIELD does not order monitoring bracelets when domestic violence injunctions have been granted, only when suspects have been arrested for domestic violence.

Miller said Marion and Seminole counties are the only two in Central Florida that have the SHIELD program. Sheriff Chris Blair pushed for the program.

"When he lived in Baltimore with his sister and was very young, his sister was involved in a domestic violence situation and lost her life," said Miller.

Marion County deputies are currently searching for Willie Asther Young of Summerfield. Young was arrested on March 13 for domestic battery by strangulation. Deputies said Young cut off his monitoring bracelet and absconded. If you know where Young is, call the Sheriff's Office.

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