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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A program touted as a life saver for domestic violence and sex crime victims has been pulled, and part of the blame is falling on COVID-19.

WREG got a copy of some of the letters sent to criminal court judges issuing a stern warning.

Letters sent to criminal court judges state: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the MPD budget and due to constraints, all GPS devices which were related to the program were deactivated effectively May 1, 2020.”

Ankle monitors given to people accused of domestic violence or sex crimes when they get out on bond were deactivated earlier this month.

 The GPS tracking devices are there to make sure they don’t come in contact with the victim.

The devices were used to keep a close eye on the alleged offenders, and if they went somewhere they weren’t supposed to be, police and the victims were alerted.

Memphis Police Deputy Chief Don Crowe said it was a three-year pilot program paid for by grant money. He said the program was “absolutely successful,” but ended last summer.

Crowe said MPD tried to keep it going by spending $140,000 of its own money this fiscal year and hoped to slowly phase it out.

Then coronavirus hit, and he said they couldn’t afford it.

“The idea was as court cases were disposed of, just gradually let it drop off,” he said, “but what we saw in April, no cases were disposed of.

As of April 6, 131 accused offenders were reportedly issued the GPS trackers.

One of those issued a tracker was Terry Glissen, who is accused of strangling his victim in May 2019.

Leroy Hester also wore one. Court documents say he kidnapped his victim at gunpoint, caused “serious bodily injury” and tried to kill her.

Leroy Hester (left) and Terry Glissen

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said police and her team contacted the victims and notified judges.

Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft told us he received those notifications.

“Now we have to worry about the alleged victims, that something may happen to them, particularly since she’s the only witness to his trying to kill her,” Craft said.

The program also offered a GPS device for victims. It was all monitored 24-7 through a private company.

“To me, somebody needs to pick up the $600,000 to keep this program going, because in the end, these can save lives,” Weirich said.

MPD said the state could consider adopting and implementing this statewide. It’s also possible someone locally would pick up the bill.

Pretrial Services says they will continue to track the accused offenders through other means, like phone calls.