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Missouri using GPS to track offenders

Saturday, April 8, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Some Missouri criminals have begun wearing Global Positioning System tracking devices as part of a state pilot project testing out the technology mandated for certain sex offenders under a law passed last year.

The Department of Corrections has placed the GPS devices on 13 offenders on parole or probation and intends to eventually put the high-tech tracking equipment on about 60 offenders, spokesman Brian Hauswirth said Friday.

GPS devices provide the ability to instantly know the specific location of an offender -- based on the same technology the military uses to identify targets and some motorists use to find their destinations.

Last year, Missouri became one of the first states to require lifetime GPS monitoring for certain repeat sex offenders, even after their sentences expire.

Hauswirth said no sex offenders have fit the criteria yet to trigger the lifetime monitoring.

The department is using the GPS technology on other offenders in the pilot project. The devices are being assigned to people who committed dangerous felonies, Hauswirth said. So far, that includes four in the St. Louis area, three in the Springfield area, two each in the Kansas City and Poplar Bluff areas, and one each in the Jefferson City and St. Joseph areas.

The tracking system allows a probation and parole officer to watch the movements of an offender -- illustrated by a dot -- on a computer screen. Normally the dot is green, but if an offender strays too close to an off-limits place, such as a school, the dot will turn red and an e-mail alert will be sent to a probation or parole officer. Notifications also are sent to the offenders' monitoring bracelets letting them know they are out of bounds.

Department director Larry Crawford said GPS tracking could cut down on the number of in-home visits needed by probation and parole officers or on the number of times offenders must report to state offices. The technology also could help determine whether an offender was near the location of a crime, he said.

The Florida Department of Corrections studied about 16,000 offenders placed on community supervision in the 2001-2002 fiscal year, including more than 1,000 under GPS monitoring.

Two years later, the department had revoked the community release of 31 percent of those on GPS monitoring, compared with 44 percent of those under traditional supervision. Nearly 6 percent of GPS-monitored offenders had committed new felonies or misdemeanors, compared with 11 percent of those who were not electronically monitored.

On the Net:

Corrections: http://www.doc.mo.gov

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