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Caitlyn’s Courage – Electronic Monitoring of Domestic Violence Abusers

Who was Caitlyn Whitehurst?

Caitlyn Whitehurst was a resident of Pitt County, North Carolina. In May of 2019, Caitlyn’s ex-boyfriend Christopher Garris laid in wait outside Caitlyn’s family property, where he shot and killed her. After killing Caitlyn, Garris turned the gun on himself in a murder-suicide.

What is Caitlyn’s Courage

In response to Caitlyn’s murder, Caitlyn’s sister Logan began the nonprofit organization Caitlyn’s Courage to raise awareness of domestic violence and to open a 24-hour safe house. Caitlyn’s Courage began selling bracelets to raise awareness of domestic violence in the community to achieve their goals. The organization held a Domestic Violence Gala in 2019 to increase awareness and raise funds to open the safe house. In 2020, The North Carolina General Assembly approved funding for Caitlyn’s Courage to oversee the implementation of a global positioning system (GPS) pilot program to track domestic violence abusers in North Carolina.

What is the Domestic Violence GPS Monitoring Program?

In 2020, the North Carolina General Assembly unanimously passed N. C. House Bill 1023, which Governor Cooper signed into law on July 1. House Bill 1023 appropriated $3.5 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds to Caitlyn’s Courage to enact a pilot program using global positioning systems (GPS) to track defendants of crimes related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking, strangulation, and violations of domestic violence protective orders as a condition for pretrial release.  This pilot program will begin in nine judicial districts in the state, three with small caseloads, three with medium caseloads, and three with large caseloads. In January 2021, Guilford County was selected as a participant in Caitlyn’s Courage GPS monitoring pilot program. In her press release announcing Guilford County’s selection in the program, Guilford County Chief District Court Judge Teresa Vincent noted that the GPS monitoring program would “promote a sense of security and freedom for individuals who are often held captive from fear of predators and perpetrators.”

The proposed GPS tracking program qualifies for funding under the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Domestic violence incidents have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic stay at home orders forcing victims and abusers to spend more time together.

What are the goals of the program?

This tracking program aims to increase the effectiveness of restraining orders and protect victims between the time of the abuser’s release from jail and their trial. Caitlyn’s Courage will use the allocated funds to implement a pilot program in nine judicial districts where defendants of domestic violence actions will be affixed with a GPS tracking device as a pretrial release condition. As an additional layer of protection, victims may also receive a tracking device that permits 24-hour monitoring of both parties. This tracking allows victims to receive a notification if their abuser is within the restricted proximity ordered in the judicial decree.

The tracking system will be able to switch between multiple cellular networks, will be rechargeable with at least a 48-hour battery life, will record the offender’s immediate location at all times, and will record any attempts to shield the signal or damage the tracking unit.

The Caitlyn’s Courage GPS monitoring program gives courts another tool to protect the victims of domestic violence in North Carolina communities. Being notified when their abuser has entered the court-ordered restricted boundaries should help victims feel safer and prevent tragedies like the senseless murder of Caitlyn Whitehurst in the future.