A Rego Park woman headed to Albany early this month to urge legislators to pass a bill requiring electronic monitoring bracelets in cases where a person seeks an order of protection against an abuser.
Dolores Maddis, a 2006 Republican candidate for state Assembly, has a personal stake in the issue: Her niece, Erika Delia, was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend on Long Island in 2007 in an apparent murder-suicide after she had obtained an order of protection against him.
Maddis approached state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) after Delia's death asking what she could do, and has become very active in the push to get the state Legislature to pass a bill requiring statewide electronic monitoring of people against whom an order of protection is issued. She was optimistic about Queens' monitoring program.
It which went into effect on a limited basis about eight months ago and currently monitors between six and a dozen offenders, said Scott Kessler, chief of the Queens DA's Domestic Violence Bureau.
"These defendants have agreed to monitoring as part of a sentence or plea bargain, and for those who are required to enter battering programs, it also helps us track who's attending," Kessler said. "If they miss a meeting, we know right away."
The devices use global positioning technology to make sure an abuser does not get too close to an "exclusion zone" stipulated in the order of protection — usually the victim's home, school and/or place of employment. A Denver-based company monitors the devices and alerts authorities if an offender gets too close to a zone and sends an alert to the victim to call 911.
The offenders average six months wearing the bracelets, which cost the taxpayers nothing — they are paid for by the wearers to the tune of $15 per day, Kessler said. The order of protection stipulates the exclusion zones, which are set up in circles around each location on a map, he said.
"If the defendant breaks the zone, the woman gets a text message telling her to call 911," Kessler said.
So far none has done so, but some have come close.
"We've seen a couple of defendants wander too close for comfort, and we call them and ask what they were doing," he said.
Maddis and two nieces went to Albany at the beginning of May to speak with legislators and hold a news conference about the legislation, which she said was "well-received."
"If it doesn't pass this session, which ends June 23, we'll have to try again next session," Maddis said. She said the current momentum should aid her cause if the bill has to wait, "but I'm optimistic it will pass."
The monitoring devices are not offered to everyone, however, and Erika Delia's ex-boyfriend may not have been a candidate.
"In cases where the person is dangerous or there are serious charges, we don't offer the bracelet. It works best for people who don't take no for an answer," Kessler said.