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State Rep. Says Her Work Isn't Done On Bill That Could Protect Victims Of Domestic Violence

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- State Representative Anita Kulik isn't giving up hope on legislation that could protect victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania.

Kulik is the main sponsor behind Alina's Law, a bill that would make electronic monitoring an option if a defendant violates a PFA. Kulik reintroduced the legislation following the 2017 murder of Pitt student Alina Sheykhet, who filed a PFA against her ex-boyfriend Matthew Darby just a few days before her death.

Kulik said the bill is stuck in the House Judiciary Committee with no end in sight on what's next. Kulik visited Washington County on Thursday to talk with leaders about the success of its electronic monitoring program to get some ideas since she plans on rewriting the legislation.

The Adult Probation Office runs the electronic monitoring program for criminal domestic violence cases in the county, and it's a program that Kulik thinks the state could use as a model if her bill passes.

The program is called the Buddi System. Jon Ridge, Washington County's Chief Adult Probation and Parole Officer, oversees the program, which has been in place in the county for about five years. He says it's the only one of its kind in the state.

Ridge says a defendant in certain criminal domestic violence cases may be required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet as a condition of bail and the victim is given a GPS monitoring device that alerts them when the perpetrator is nearby.

Ridge says his team is alerted anytime an offender gets close to the victim, and his team will call the police if needed. His staff is also alerted if the offender tries to cut the bracelet off.

Ridge says there are between 15 and 25 cases in the county hooked up to the tracker right now, and they're monitored by his team 24/7.

KDKA talked to a victim who believes she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the program. We protected her identity.

"It's wonderful. They know where I am at all times, where the abuser is at all times," said the victim.

She said any time her abuser passes through an exclusion zone, even if it's by accident, she gets text alerts from the team making her aware that they're close by.

"For victims of abuse, it's very scary cause you don't know, especially if you live in the same area and bump into them," said the victim.

Kulik is trying to push legislation through in Harrisburg that would order a defendant to wear an electronic monitoring device if a judge believes they might violate a PFA. She says she's plans on rewriting the legislation with Ridge's program in mind.

Ridge thinks Kulik's idea is a good one and commends his program for saving a lot of lives.

"I know for a fact there have been more than a handful of victims that have been saved because we have this in place," said Ridge.

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