Special to Iredell Free News

As part of pilot program aimed at reducing the risk of harm or harassment to the victims of domestic violence, victims of domestic violence in Iredell and Alexander counties will be notified in real time if their abusers violate the terms of a release order by coming too close to them.

This Domestic Violence Prevention Pilot Program will reduce interaction between domestic violence victims and the accused by authorizing the use of a GPS monitoring system to alert victims in the event that the defendants get too close to them.

The N.C. General Assembly has provided funds for this program, and pursuant to Session Law 2020-80, nine judicial districts, including District 22A (Iredell and Alexander counties), were selected to participate.

The program is the result of work by Caitlyn’s Courage Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing domestic violence in North Carolina. It is named after Caitlyn Whitehurst, who was the victim of a domestic violence murder-suicide in Greenville, N.C., in 2019.

The program will allow judges in the chosen districts to put domestic violence defendants on GPS monitoring while they are out of jail awaiting trial. There is also a corresponding GPS unit for the victim, which will alert the victim when the defendant is in close proximity to him or her.

The GPS units will be provided by and monitored by Tarheel Monitoring. Staff working in a 24-hour monitoring center will contact the victim if the defendant violates a condition of pretrial release. Text messages will be sent to the victim as the offender comes closer. The victim will also receive a phone call if the offender reaches the critical zone.

In preparation for the implementation of this program, District 22A established an implementation team consisting of Chief District Court Judge Dale Graham, District Court Judge Deborah Brown, District Court Judge Edward Hedrick, District Court Judge Christine Underwood, District Attorney Sarah Kirkman, Assistant District Attorney Carrie Nitzu, and Attorney (and District Court Judge-Elect) Bryan Corbett.

“We have previously had the ability to monitor the behavior of defendants while they are out of jail awaiting trial,” Kirkman said. “The main difference in this program is the ability of the victim to be notified when the offender gets close to him or her. It gives the victim the opportunity to reach safety and to avoid contact with and possible harm from the defendant.”

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