A recent story published in the L.A. Times newspaper highlights the increase in the number of arrest warrants issued since October 2011 due to parolees removing their GPS monitoring device. The story states it’s easy for a parolee to cut off the device, but doing so triggers a notification to the supervising agent.
I feel the need to address this situation and provide more background on the straps used on GPS monitoring devices. I’ll start with our BLUtag device.
BLUtag and its strap
BLUtag, the most advanced, proven and reliable GPS monitoring device in the industry, is used throughout the state of California by many government agencies. It has monitored, tracked and reported the movements and violations of more sex offenders, gang members, high-profile offenders and repeat offenders than any other GPS device in the industry. Using this device allows these agencies to take immediate action when enrollees violate the terms of their supervision, including removing the device.
Supervising agents usually take immediate action when they receive a tamper notification. However, ambiguity in California laws regarding offender custody has impacted the ability of agencies to maintain the appropriate consequence for various types of violations.
No technology available today can prevent parolees, or any offender, from removing their monitoring device (GPS or RF) or committing other violations. The important functionality is for the device to immediately notify supervising agents to the violation so the required action can be taken.
BLUtag’s hypoallergenic, thermoplastic rubber strap securely keeps the device fastened around the enrollee’s ankle at all times. If an enrollee removes BLUtag, the device immediately reports the tamper event, so the assigned supervising agent can take the action required by the agency and the law.
One manufacturer makes a strap for a GPS monitoring device marketed as “more secure,” which means it’s embedded with stainless steel cables or a strip of steel. Yes, the offender can’t remove the device with standard medical scissors, but neither can medical personnel for medical emergencies or law enforcement officers when booking offenders into jail for a violation.
Removing this device requires tools, which aren’t usually immediately available in emergency situations. If the offender experiences a medical emergency and loses a foot or part of the leg simply because medical personnel couldn’t quickly remove the monitoring device, the agency is at risk for a lawsuit.
Additionally, the “more secure” strap has been known to be removed where it inserts into the device or it breaks off at the same point. This certainly creates a question about its level of security. This type of strap doesn’t comply with the proposed National Institutes of Justice standards for Offender Tracking Systems.
Many solicitations specifically state the strap can’t be embedded with steel cables or straps. The industry (supervising agencies and vendors/manufacturers) recognizes the critical need for a strap that securely fastens the monitoring device around the offender’s ankle. But the strap can’t impair the ability of either medical or law enforcement personnel from removing it, especially in an emergency situation.
And I question whatever additional security it may provide. An offender can still remove the device with a steel-embedded strap – and it doesn’t matter to the offender if removing the device takes a few more seconds or a few more minutes. STOP has looked at adding a strap with embedded steel to our options, but ensuring that our device works as designed outweighs this option.
The result of the situation described in the L.A. Times news story is appropriate consequences can’t be applied to the deserving offenders due to a lack of clear law. GPS is a tool, and an extremely effective one when properly utilized. The article has more to do with need to change the law in order to have proper consequences for parolees violating the terms of their supervision.
The government agencies using our device are successful with other options for handling the removal of a device and maintaining public safety as well.