Rural Crime Watch – monitoring devices

An ankle bracelet may be your required fashion choice in 2012 if you are either a repeat substance abuser or high-risk sex offender

An ankle bracelet may be your required fashion choice in 2012 if you are either a repeat substance abuser or high-risk sex offender. The bracelet designed for the former detects levels of drugs or alcohol in the user’s system and alarms law enforcers, bringing them to the offender’s location by GPS (global positioning device). The latter device is primarily a GPS monitoring device unless the wearer is a dual offender.

Hollywood’s Lindsay Lohan was the most recent high profile recipient of the bracelet as part of her sentence for theft, which she served in her $7,000 a month Venice, California, condo. Convicted financier Bernie Madof served his house arrest in his $7 million New York apartment. The consequences can be harsh with the average citizen required to serve the sentence in their own home with limited or no access to outside services, requiring someone to purchase food and supplies on their behalf.

Sexual offenders in some communities are required to live communally in one apartment complex where their daily behavior is constantly monitored. Others, depending on the court’s evaluation, are required to wear the ankle bracelet monitored by GPS, which provides police a minute-by-minute tracking of activities. Restrictions can be programmed limiting the wearer from any proximity to playgrounds, swimming pools or other community locations where children or families may congregate.

Readers are familiar with law enforcers listing high-risk offenders being released into communities, the most recent being in Vancouver, B.C. www.ruralcrimewatch.com/index.php?zone=56&pagedisp=bulletins. The individual has activity restrictions which include: report all female relationships to parole officer, not consume, purchase, and possess alcohol or drugs other than prescribed medication. The offender’s photo is posted with public instructions to notify law enforcement if you see him breaching these rules. The question is whether all high risk offenders should wear monitoring anklets?

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak wants all 14,000 convicted sex offenders to wear the bracelets. Since they cannot be monitored individually, critics note the offender’s location near an offense could only be detected after the fact and not prevent the incident from a sexual offender. Proponents counter with the fact that each person would have her/his bracelet programmed for specific locations and breaching that would alarm monitors who would send law enforcers to locate the offender, which, given its software specifics, is easily done. Hudak estimates the $50 million yearly cost could be gleaned from various ministries affected by these offenders.

Many states and provinces have an Ignition Interlock Program, which requires the driver to provide a breath sample and prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected. It also requires periodic samples to ensure the driver isn’t drinking once the vehicle starts. The device records all activity and if it is breached the vehicle’s horn sounds, lights flash and the vehicle is shut down. The cost to the driver is around $2,000. Specifics are on our web site under Column.

Maintenance is a factor with the rechargeable device. If the battery dies, the device has to be replaced. It cannot be submersed in water, so the wearer can’t take a bath, but showers do not affect its function. Daily, the user must transmit the bracelet’s data via a phone modem to the monitoring agency. If any variance to the restrictions is detected, law enforcers arrive, ditto if the uploading is missed.

Law enforcers admit the device is not foolproof but it does move monitoring to a much higher level than has been previously available. Do you feel convicted sexual offenders should wear the monitors 24/7? Share your views with us at www.ruralcrimewatch.com and on Facebook.

– Jonathan McCormick and Denny Fahrentholz