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Pittsburgh group develops technology to protect domestic violence victims

PITTSBURGH — A local non-profit group is hoping an app could provide the next step in protection for domestic violence victims, making Allegheny County the first in the nation to use it.

One of the biggest concerns among victims in Pennsylvania is there are only a handful of ways to protect yourself, including a Protection From Abuse order.

Diane Decubellis is not just a victim, she’s a survivor. She filed abuse charges against her ex-boyfriend last year and was alerted by the Center for Victims the day he got out of jail.

“The unknown is always there. But I think you can't let it create that fear forever,” she told Channel 11’s Aaron Martin.

Now, the Center for Victims wanted to take it a step further, alerting victims the moment a PFA is violated.


“We can give victims better tools to ensure their safety and the safety of their children,” explained Laurie MacDonald, the CEO of the Center for Victims.

MacDonald said she is discussing with the Allegheny County courts how to implement a geo-fence through an app. Both the offender and the victim would be required to download an app on their phone. If the offender gets within a certain court mandated distance, it would alert the victim.

But not everyone thought this is a good idea.

“It triggers some concerns,” cautioned Duquesne Law Professor John Rago.

Rago said the technology needed to be crafted carefully so it does not violate a person’s right to privacy.

“There are equal values at stake here, privacy and public safety,” Rago said.

Officials with the Family Court Division said no timetable has been set.

“If you put certain things like these in place it allows you to move forward and for them to know they can't continue to have that control over you,” Dianne Decubellis said.

The Center for Victims said one pathway for the geo-fence to be implemented is if it a condition of bail after an incident. If it does go into effect, it would be the first of its kind nationwide.