Red Deer pilot program provides SOS GPS locator for abused women
Published October 28, 2012
The Calgary Sun
Author: Dave Dormer
While it won’t prevent an attack, a pilot program in Red Deer is helping women trying to escape abusive relationships feel safer, said the head of that city’s emergency shelter.
Called SafeTracks, the program sees women deemed at highest risk of being attacked by an ex-partner carry a small device that can connect them with a 911 dispatcher while their location is tracked by GPS.
“It’s the size of a small cellphone,” said Ian Wheeliker, Executive Director of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter.
“It gives 911 their exact longitude and latitude … so the police knows exactly where to respond to.
“This is not going to save women’s lives, but it’s another tool in the safety plan that can aid police.”
The device has what’s called an SOS button, said Wheeliker, that connects them with a 24-hour monitoring center if they are attacked or feel threatened.
“The police service that would be quickest to respond is contacted and given her location,” said Wheeliker, adding critical information is also forwarded.
“If there’s any emergency protection orders in place, the ages and names of any children and the schools they might attend … along with any outstanding charges (of potential suspects).”
Nine women in Red Deer have the device currently, said Wheeliker, and they’ve been activated six times since the program was started in 2010.
The biggest thing it offers, said Wheeliker, is increased peace of mind.
“The women who are carrying it say they feel safer and more secure,” he said, adding there haven’t been any tragedies.
Paid for by the Alberta Victims of Crime Fund, the program is slated to run until July 2013.
Several shelters across Alberta are monitoring the program, including the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, with the aim of implementing it.