A project to test electronic monitoring of domestic violence perpetrators will get underway early next year, after the Maine Board of Corrections last week approved pilot projects in three locations. This important project will help local and state officials and lawmakers determine if this technology is useful in reducing the incidence of domestic violence, which accounts for half of Maine homicides in a typical year.

The projects are expected to begin in January and run for up to six months, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Kennebec County will serve as the urban pilot project site. Somerset and Sagadahoc counties are rural test sites.

A small test has been done in Somerset County and determined such monitoring would cost about $7 per day. Many other questions remain, especially about the effectiveness of such monitoring. For example, how quickly can law enforcement respond when an alert is received? How frequent are false alarms?

The pilot projects are the result of work by Rep. Ken Fredette, a Republican from Newport.

“I’m thrilled that this pilot project is moving forward,” the House minority leader said in a written statement. “The days of domestic violence victims living in fear of their attackers needs to come to an end now. The electronic monitoring is a huge step toward achieving that goal.”

Fredette proposed the electronic monitoring system in 2011 after the murder of Amy Lake and her two children, Monica and Coty, by her estranged husband, Steven Lake. Authorities believe if this electronic monitoring protocol had been in place then, a terrible tragedy could have been avoided, Fredette’s statement said. Amy Lake had obtained a protection from abuse order, which Steven Lake violated five times but spent only two days in jail, according to a report on the murders by four former Maine police officers. He also should not have had access to firearms.

The pilot projects will be funded by a $36,000 fund set up for this purpose. Half the money comes from the proceeds of the 2012 Amy Lake Walk/Run in Dexter. Gov. Paul LePage gave the other $18,000 from his contingency fund in 2012.

Kennebec County and Sagadahoc County will each receive $4,000 to begin the project; Somerset County will receive an initial award of $2,000. Additional funds will be distributed upon request and based on a demonstrated need by the three pilot project sites.

The electronic monitoring bracelets will alert law enforcement officers when someone deemed a high-risk offender enters a “safe zone” that would put a victim at increased risk of an attack. These safe zones typically include a victim’s home, workplace or a child’s school.

The devices are for use by offenders and alleged offenders who are out of jail on bail but are of concern to law enforcement or judicial officials. The highest-risk offenders should remain in jail, and the devices aren’t for low-risk offenders.

Risk will be assessed using a tool called the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment, a 13-question survey that will be fully implemented in Maine as of Jan. 1. Some of the key indicators in the assessment will be people who have a history of prior arrests, stalking or violating bail conditions.

Fourteen states allow judges to include electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders who violate protection from abuse orders.

Connecticut used GPS to monitor 119 high-risk domestic violence offenders from 2010 to 2011. During that time, none of the victims was reinjured, according to a review by the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit.

Research on the Connecticut pilot project indicates that the reality of being monitored changes defendants’ behavior — when someone is looking, they follow the rules more closely — increasing safety and peace of mind for victims and their children, said Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition To End Domestic Violence.

Electronic monitoring holds a lot of promise. Maine is wise to test it out and get it right.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...