Electronic surveillance: now also to ensure the safety of victims.
12 October 2023
In 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, the number of ankle bracelets increased by 1,300 units.
A new generation of ankle bracelets was therefore much needed.
Not only are the ankle bracelets new, but the applications are also innovative. After all, the ankle bracelet is no longer just a method of serving a sentence, but also becomes a tool to ensure the safety of victims, for example.
Starting in the spring of 2024, these new ankle bracelets will be introduced.
The new generation of anklets will be able to alert victims when an offender is too close, but also track juvenile criminals and even monitor alcohol and drug use.
This development has significant implications for the criminal justice system and how offenders are managed and monitored.
In this blog, we explore the revamped ankle bracelets and the facilities they offer to victims and what potential benefits and challenges they present.
But first things first: what is electronic monitoring?
Both defendants and convicts can be subjected to electronic monitoring by a judge as a form of restricting their freedom. This involves requiring them to be at home at set times.
Electronic devices are used to monitor whether the suspect or convict in question is complying with these conditions. An ankle bracelet is placed around the ankle and a surveillance box is installed at home that sends signals to the monitoring body Flemish Center for Electronic Monitoring (VCET).
If a person is suspected in an ongoing judicial investigation, that person may be placed in pre-trial detention with an ankle bracelet. Only in very exceptional situations may the person leave their residence, such as medical emergencies or fires. Suspects are tracked via GPS. In other words, it is a form of home detention.
Effective imprisonment can also be carried out under electronic surveillance, albeit with strict conditions. Leaving the home is allowed only for mandatory activities such as work, education or therapy. Those who do not comply with this arrangement risk still having to serve their sentence within the prison walls.
In addition, electronic monitoring can also be imposed on its own as a punishment, especially when the offenses committed carry a maximum prison sentence of one year.
Notification for victims
New technology offers opportunities to better protect victims of domestic violence, stalking and other threatening situations.
Indeed, victims of crime, particularly domestic violence and stalking, often face ongoing fear and insecurity. Traditional protection measures are sometimes not enough to allay these fears.
This is why Flanders has taken an innovative approach by using technology to provide better protection for victims.
A mobile application for smartphones will allow victims to receive an alert as soon as an offender is in their vicinity. For example, if you are walking through a park and the perpetrator is also there, the app will notify you and show you the way to get to safety.
In addition, the anklets also allow victims to activate an alarm signal if they feel threatened. This signal is immediately forwarded to the authorities, allowing for quick intervention. Moreover, the victim’s location data can be tracked, which increases the chances of responding quickly to potentially dangerous situations.
The application can thus support a court-ordered restraining order. This can be particularly useful for partner violence and intra-family violence.
In this way, the new anklets increase the safety of victims on the one hand, but can also act as a deterrent for perpetrators on the other, given that the technology closely monitors their actions.
However, all of this has a downside: what about the privacy of both offenders and victims?
It is essential that the government ensures that the data collected is only used for legitimate security purposes and that the rights of victims and offenders are respected.
The smartphone app for victims will be piloted in early 2024, and if all goes well, implemented in practice from March next year.