Probation officers in Kane County, Ill., can use a computer to reconstruct the days of sex offenders, reports the Chicago Tribune. They can see where their targets went, how long they stayed, even how fast they were driving. Each night the information is downloaded from a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device the offender carries by court order whenever he leaves home. If he gets within 300 feet of his alleged victim’s home or 1,000 feet of her elementary school, the officer will know, and the man could be off to jail.
The system’s launch last week marks the first time a Chicago-area criminal justice agency has used GPS monitoring and is a sign of growing interest in the gear. “Using technology to supervise offenders is clearly the direction probation is moving,” said Allen Nance, deputy director of adult court services in DuPage County. “To the extent we can use the Internet and other technologies, it certainly is something that can be beneficial for the community.”
Electronic monitoring has been commonplace for people on parole or probation. Their ankle bracelets send an alarm if they leave their homes, but the devices don’t show where they go. GPS tracking fills in the blanks.
Kane County’s system relies on a tracking device the size of a pocket dictionary, worn on the waist like a pager. If a probationer takes it off and travels more than 50 feet away, the accompanying ankle bracelet takes note.
Only a few Illinois agencies use the technology. Sergio Molina of the Illinois Department of Corrections said officials looked into GPS two years ago but decided to stick with the ankle bracelets now used for 1,500 sex offenders and parolees. The Cook County Sheriff’s Department found the GPS price tag–up to $12 a day per person–too steep. Kane County pays $7.50 a day, funded by a $9,000 state grant.