Law enforcement officers in Clark County (Ark.) have embraced a cost-effective system for tracking criminals who are on parole or who have been sentenced to electronic monitoring in lieu of serving jail time—a new GPS-based digital monitoring system.
The latest incarnation of anklet monitors upgrades the system to include a built-in feature that prevents device removal. Unlike its predecessors, the GPS-based systems do not rely on radio frequencies. GPS not only tells the current location of the monitor, it records all activity and locations visited by the wearer, which can later be used if necessary during court hearings.
Programmed to include "exclusion zones,"—areas that the offender is prohibited from frequenting, such as a former workplace or the residence of an individual who has filed a restraining order—the system acts as a warning alarm for both police and a potential victim.
"If he goes into the zone, it notifies us and also warns the victim," says Chance Leamons, owner of Southwest Probation Services, the company supplying the devices. "That way, police officers can be sent to handle the situation." Leamons adds that the new monitors are equipped with cell phones, which can even be used by the offender in case of an emergency.
"If (the offender) is only supposed to be at work and at home, he (or she) can press the button on the bracelet and tell the monitoring company that they've had a flat and will be late," says Leamons.
But according to Leamons, the new monitors' cell phone capabilities are a blessing for probation officers trying to keep tabs on offenders as well.
"Such monitors could prevent pre-trial defendants from "jumping bail," says Leamons. "In past cases, we didn't know folks had run until their court date. This tells us immediately."