Technology Helps Track Sex Offenders

By: Robert Borrelli
By: Robert Borrelli

Global positioning technology will keep track of paroled sex offenders in St. Joseph County, one of three counties in Indiana to be part of a pilot program.

A tether system actually tracks their every move, telling local correction officers if offenders go too close to schools, parks or even the home of their victim.

Of the 277 registered sex offenders in St. Joseph County, about 25 of them will end up being electronically tethered.

A bracelet is strapped to their ankle and a transmitter, which looks like a large cell phone, is attached to their hip.

Home Detention Officer Tim Wolf says, "We have the ability from our computer, our monitoring computer, to actually send the offender a text message via the transmitting unit that will say, ‘you are in an exclusion zone, you need to leave immediately’. If you're within a certain range of a school or a park and we tell you to leave and you don't for some reason, then we're gonna' notify parole and possibly come out and find you ourselves."

Using another home detention officer as a tester, NewsCenter 16 drove to a school parking lot.

It was a move that quickly showed up on a computer screen at the Community Corrections Office in South Bend.

Little green dots indicate the subject is moving. A red dot indicates the offender is within 50-feet of where they shouldn't be.

The device rings, the detention officer picks it up, and sees a text message warning him to move on.

Tim Wolf says over the phone to the tester, “Mr. McRoberts, you're in an exclusion zone. You wanna' tell me what you're doing there? You need to leave that area,” which could be a school, a park or the victim's home.

Susan Hancock is director of the Community Corrections Center. She says, "It will allow them tools to find out where the offenders have been, where they are, not just the fact that they've left their residence and that they're coming back, but where they are at any given point in time."

Each bracelet and transmitter unit costs around $3500 bucks.

The technology, we're told, is nearly foolproof and admissible in court.

Offenders must wear the device at all times, even when they sleep and bathe. The ankle bracelet is waterproof and will set off an alarm if someone tries to cut it off.

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