GPS Tracking Devices Instead of Jail Time in Over-Crowded System

gps tracking legalSante Fe Hopes GPS Tracking Can Help Reduce Repetitive Incarceration

With overcrowded jails, soaring incarceration costs and high recidivism rates, city officials in Santa Fe  launched a new system that tracks convicted burglars through GPS devices rather than putting them in jail.

With the new GPS tracking system, law enforcement agencies are able to track offenders from the moment they leave prison.

The city is hoping the GPS tracking devices will be able to deter burglars from striking again, something that can be quite challenging to do. Santa Fe Police Capt. Aric Wheeler told ABC News the idea for the program originated as an alternative to repetitive incarceration, which is expensive.

Wheeler said that it also did little to deter burglaries and police would see an immediate spike in burglaries as soon as criminals got out of jail. “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. You have to come up with new and creative ways to deal with them,”  Wheeler told ABC News.

The GPS tracking plan could also be beneficial for many cities and states struggling fiscally, as it could be a way to alleviate the financial toll of incarceration. It could also help the problem of jail overcrowding.  These issues were major catalysts in initiating the plan.

The GPS tracking program, launched last week, will begin with five devices to gauge its effectiveness and collect data.

The GPS tracking program targets individuals facing long sentences, those with a large number of burglary charges, or people who have a juvenile history.

“A person who goes into the program has to specifically consent to it because they waive any issues to unrestricted access to their data by police department,” Couleur said. A clause in the program mandates employment.

“They can contribute to society and they have to go out and get a job. We can reintegrate them into the community,”  Wheeler said. “If they truly want to be rehabilitated and they know ‘Big Brother’ is watching them, I’m hoping they will be more reluctant to commit burglaries again.”

The anklets have two types of monitors, active and passive. Santa Fe police will track them passively, meaning the devices won’t give live GPS data to police computers. However, if there is reason for suspicion, such as multiple burglaries reported in one area, or if a crime fits the monitored burglar’s previous modes of operation, then police can send a request to the 3M, the GPS device company, to get the live locations so they can intervene.

“It comes down to police work,” Wheeler said. “The great thing about it is we can activate them. If we have serious concern that they are committing burglary right now we can contact 3M and gain access.”

Couleur agreed, telling ABC News, “You can’t put everyone in jails. There is no money for new jails and there are no beds in the jails. There have to be alternatives for jails and this is a pretty good one.”