GPS monitoring will not stop stalkers: criminologist
'There’s no evidence ... electronic monitoring devices decrease any kind of criminal activity'
Electronic monitoring of people subject to restraining orders doesn't stop them from stalking and harassing victims, two experts familiar with Manitoba's justice system say.
Camille Runke was killed on Oct. 30 outside her St. Boniface workplace. Several days later her estranged husband, Kevin Runke, against whom she had a restraining order, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot in a wooded area in the St. Malo area.
Runke complained to Winnipeg police 22 times between July and October about her husband's alleged harassment. Her sister, Maddie Laberge, said she believes a GPS tracker could have helped keep her sister safe.
Such a move may be neither effective nor feasible, said Kevin Walby, a criminologist at the University of Winnipeg.
"If we start putting electronic monitoring on everyone who's just suspected of a certain kind of activity, such as stalking or something like that, we'd be putting it on potentially thousands of Manitobans," Walby said.
Even if the kinks are ironed out, there's little proof the ankle bracelets are much of a deterrent, he said.
"There's no evidence that they themselves, the electronic monitoring devices, decrease any kind of criminal activity."
Corey Shefman, who speaks for the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties, believes improvements can be made to protect victims, but he also doesn't think GPS monitoring is the answer.
"I think society at large has to take more seriously the concerns that people like Ms. Runke had," said Shefman.
Victims of stalking and harassment should collect as much evidence as they can against perpetrators, that will help empower police to take action, he said.
"The most important thing is to keep the police informed. Obviously it didn't help Ms. Runke in this case but in many other cases it does. This was a very tragic circumstance, but I believe it was an anomaly," Shefman said.
GPS monitoring no deterrent: Walby
A study in Winnipeg from 2007-08 looked at the effect electronic bracelets may have on auto theft, said Walby. The devices were found to have zero influence on behaviour. What's more, police don't have time to respond to breaches, he said.
"Ultimately if someone wanted to cut it off and commit a breach, they have actually as much time as it takes to track them down," said Walby.
What has been proven to work are community supports, said Walby. When individuals are placed under restraining orders and continue to stalk and harass victims, mental health services, among other supports, need to get involved.
"It's actually the broader network of community connections, probation officers, parole officers, social service providers that make the difference," said Walby.
Province: open to exploring new methods
"We're looking forward to hearing ideas from all sources — justice officials, police and people who have sought protection orders — as we formulate new legislation this year," said Morgan.
The province ordered a review of Manitoba's Domestic Violence and Stalking Act in October following Runke's murder and the killing of another Winnipeg woman, Selena Keeper. The 20-year-old's on-again, off-again boyfriend is charged with her homicide.
On Monday, Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh announced changes to the province's domestic violence legislation could come as early as December, and may include a provision to impose a mandatory firearms ban on anyone who is the subject of a protection order. He said he's open to the idea of ankle bracelets.
"First we want to know that this can help make people safer. second of all it has to be legal of course, we can't be exposing people who are vulnerable women to situations where legal challenges just bog down the need for safety and immediate safety," Mackintosh said,