1 In 4 People In NSW Who Buy Tracking Devices Have A History Of Domestic Violence

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses domestic violence.

One in four people who purchase tracking devices in NSW has a history of domestic violence offences, found a report by the state’s Crime Commission.

The study made the recommendation that tighter controls be made over the sale of GPS and tracking devices to prevent a multitude of crimes where the devices were being used, including domestic violence, murder, and kidnapping.

In an Australian-first finding, NSW Crime Commissioner Michael Barnes revealed that perpetrators of domestic violence were using the devices to commit serious crimes, after analysing records of the sale of 5500 tracking devices since January 2023.

Of the 3000+ customers analysed, 25 per cent had a history of domestic violence.

The report also identified that 37 per cent of the purchasers were known to the police, and 15 per cent had a history of serious and organised crime. Additionally, private investigators were found to be selling the devices.

“Domestic violence perpetrators use tracking devices as part of a series of behaviours intended to intimidate, frighten, and control their intimate partners,” stated Barnes.

The devices in the review were specifically tracking devices that used the Global Positioning System (GPS) and did not include the sale of Bluetooth tracking devices like Apple AirTags or Life360 Tiles.

In February 2022, Apple began working with law enforcement around the world to prevent unwanted tracking of devices.

Bluetooth tracker on a backpack. Source: Getty.

Although the issue is a difficult one to tackle for law enforcers, the NSW Crime Commission has five recommendations to the Government that it believes will help protect domestic violence victims.

  1. Work with tech companies to build anti-stalking features into tracking devices.
  2. Amend laws so that perpetrators have reduced access to tracking devices.
  3. Increase regulation of the sales of surveillance devices.
  4. Tighten legislation around the legal use of surveillance devices.
  5. Apply the above changes to the industries of private investigators and ‘spy stores’.

In response to the horrific findings from the report, the CEO of Women’s Community Shelters Annabelle Daniel OAM shared that women’s shelters have noticed the increased use of tracking devices.

“We have found tracking tiles in teddy bears, hidden in the wheel arches of prams, and had residents tracked through Fitbits left in vehicles,” she stated.

Daniel highlighted that an abuser’s enhanced ability to stalk their victim gives them a type of “omnipresence” that has serious impacts on the victim

“This can induce significant fear and isolation in victims with every social contact they have with someone becoming a risk they may later be questioned about,” she said.

“The new coercive control laws in NSW will capture technological surveillance and abuse, and we see the profile of abusers shift over time once this offence is well embedded in our systems.” 

As of July 1, coercive control will become a criminal offence in NSW. It is already illegal to track a person’s location without their consent.

Help is available.