FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Every suspect arrested for domestic violence in Flagler County is now fitted with a GPS monitoring bracelet before bonding out if a judge decides the suspect is a threat to his or her surviving victim.
Sheriff Rick Staly ordered the program based on recommendations from a Domestic Violence Task Force he convened after being sworn in as the newly elected sheriff in January 2017.
Four people were killed in domestic violence incidents in Flagler County in 2017 and two people in 2018.
Staly said in 2018, the number of domestic violence incidents had risen compared to the year before.
"It will get worse before it gets better," Staly predicted in 2017.
But the number of arrests for violation of domestic violence injunctions, also known as restraining orders, has increased 101 percent compared to 2017.
Staly said that's because only two full-time staffers -- a detective and crime analyst -- are now dedicated to tracking, arresting and following-up on domestic violence offenders.
"It was occurring before and they just weren't getting caught," Staly said. "Now they're getting caught."
Staly said many domestic violence offenders escalate their violence and continue to abuse their victims, even harassing them with threatening phone calls while in jail, even going to their homes after bonding out of jail.
So since Nov. 1, all suspects jailed for domestic violence charges appearing before a judge for a bond hearing undergo a threat assessment.
The judge determines if a suspect is likely to again abuse his or her surviving victim and, if so, orders a GPS tracking bracelet placed on the suspect's ankle.
The bracelet shows the suspect's movements in real time. The full-time domestic violence team at the Flagler County Sheriff's Office monitors the movements 24 hours a day.
A "safe zone" around the survivor's home and work is programmed into the GPS tracking system to alert deputies and the survivor immediately if the suspect enters that safe zone. Deputies immediately respond if that occurs.
Flagler County Jail Commander Glenn Davis said suspects become nervous when they know they're being watched, which is exactly what Staly wants.
"It's life-saving for the fact that the person we put this on knows we're watching," Davis said. "So it's less likely that they're going to try and make contact with the victim."
Davis said since Nov. 1, two suspects arrested for domestic violence released on bond have been fitted with GPS monitoring bracelets. Neither one has gone near their surviving victim.
"I believe wholeheartedly that these have been real good deterrents," Davis said.