Call for crackdown on trackers used to hunt DV victims

Access to tracking devices could be limited and an advertising crackdown rolled out for sellers profiting off crimes following a spike in domestic violence-related surveillance.

A report from the NSW Crime Commission found domestic-violence offenders were using trackers to harass and intimidate their victims, in some cases buying multiple devices to monitor their targets' movements.

That formed part of a broader and sharp rise in the use of trackers, including by organised-crime networks to "monitor, locate and ultimately attack their rivals".

Of more than 3100 tracking device customers analysed since 2023, one-in-four customers had a history of domestic violence, while 126 were subject to an apprehended violence order at the time they bought the items.

The commission, which investigates serious criminal activity in the state, noted many of these customers bought a GPS device in the days after an AVO had been imposed.

A distressed woman
One DV offender bought 15 tracking devices before his victim found them in her car and home. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

The findings of the report, released on Tuesday, match the experience of No to Violence CEO Phillip Ripper, whose organisation works with men to curb DV offending.

He said tracking a partner was an "absolute red flag to increasingly harmful forms of family violence".

"But, make no mistake, tracking and surveillance are all part of stalking behaviours, all parts of coercive control and all constitute family violence in their own right," Mr Ripper told AAP.

"It is incredibly intimidating and impactful on women's lives, to know they are being tracked but, in many cases, unknowingly tracked as well."

The report called for tighter controls on GPS tracking devices and recommended their use be factored into bail and AVO conditions to better protect victims.

It also suggested far stronger regulation of the surveillance equipment market, noting some private investigators and specialist spy stores were selling the equipment by marketing the fact their products could be used to monitor intimate partners.

Eight-in-10 people charged with unlawful tracking device use since 2010 were also charged with a domestic violence offence.

The report pointed to a number of case studies, including one man who bought 15 tracking devices before his victim found three placed on her car and inside her home.

"(Domestic violence) perpetrators maliciously use tracking devices to gain information about the victim's whereabouts for the purpose of intimidating, stalking or humiliating them – with many perpetrators making the victim aware they are being tracked," the report said.

"The commission also reviewed cases where perpetrators used location data from tracking devices to threaten or carry out violence against their partner or their partner's family."

The investigation uncovered 391 customers deemed "particularly high-risk" that have been referred on to the police and other authorities.

Two suspects
Crime gangs use tracking devices to monitor victims' movements before ambushing and killing them. (HANDOUT/NSW POLICE)

Tracking devices had been used in 15 violent, organised crime-related incidents since 2022, including three murders, three attempted or planned murders, five planned or attempted kidnappings and a drive-by shooting, the commission said.

The murders included the 2023 public execution of drug lord Alen Moradian, which the commission said was planned with the help of trackers.

An organised crime network learned his home address by placing a device on his wife's car, the report said.

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