SKOWHEGAN — It’s been just over a year since the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office started using electronic ankle bracelets to track domestic violence offenders, and those involved with the project say it’s been successful.

The bracelets, which alert law enforcement if a defendant enters a prohibited area, such as a victim’s home or workplace, have been used 15 times, including eight domestic violence cases.

“It’s given us a tremendous tool to keep track of domestic violence offenders, especially serial offenders who seem to victimize the same person over again and over again,” said Mike Pike, a domestic violence investigator for the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. Pike and others in law enforcement were part of a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Skowhegan Town Office, part of a “speak-out” organized by the Family Violence Project/ and local law enforcement to raise awareness during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In Skowhegan alone, there have been 35 domestic violence-related arrests this year, according to Skowhegan police Chief Don Bolduc.

Last year Kelly Guay, a friend of Amy Bagley Lake, who was killed by her husband in 2011, presented the county with $15,000 to start the program.

Lake and her two children were killed by her husband, Stephen Lake, in a triple-murder and suicide in Harmony in 2011.

The bracelets are usually used in pre-trial cases. The program does not cost taxpayers anything, because defendants pay to wear them.

One of the biggest benefits of the program is it allows victims to feel safe, said Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties.

“To me, that’s why we needed it,” Maloney said. “I had a victim tell me that she thought she was going to need to leave the state, and when she heard the person who had abused her was going to be on an electronic monitor, she felt comfortable staying.”

If a violation occurs, law enforcement is notified immediately and responds to both the victim and defendant, Maloney said. “We’re not just chasing the defendant. We’re on the phone with the victim and she stays on the phone with us until law enforcement arrives,” she said.

Members of the panel, which also included Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster and Bolduc, said the bracelets keep defendants from re-offending.

Of the eight defendants who used the bracelets in the past year, there has been just one offense, which was a drug-related probation violation and did not involve the victim.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

[email protected]

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