Something Carson City knew long before NASA

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Alternative Sentencing Assistant Chief Cate Summers watches Dave Ezell replace a Secure Alert ankle GPS  monitor on a probation client Tuesday afternoon at the Carson City Courthouse.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Alternative Sentencing Assistant Chief Cate Summers watches Dave Ezell replace a Secure Alert ankle GPS monitor on a probation client Tuesday afternoon at the Carson City Courthouse.

GPS monitoring of people on house arrest got national attention last week when a Florida judge ordered that an astronaut charged with attempted murder and kidnapping be released from jail on the condition she wear the global positioning device as an anklet.

For the officers of Carson City's Alternative Sentencing department and the eight offenders here on house arrest, that GPS technology is old hat.

"Right now in Northern Nevada area we are the only law enforcement agency that is utilizing the global tracking device on the (adult) house arrest program," said Alternative Sentencing Assistant Chief Cate Summers. She added that the technology is currently being used for juvenile offenders in Churchill and Lyon counties.

Two months ago, Summers and her boss, Chief Rory Planeta, began switching out the old ankle monitoring that house-arrest offenders were using. The technology was outdated and relied on a telephone line, which, with the popularity of cell phones, are hard to come by, said Summers.

Through the telephone line and a reader installed in the house, officers knew when the offender was at home. But during work hours or doctors visits, the monitor was turned off, and it was up to the offender to actually go to work or appointments. If they cut off their anklet and disappeared, law enforcement wasn't even able to find the monitors again.

With the GPS monitoring, if offenders are at work, Planeta or Summers can pull up their information on a map on the Internet and confirm their location. If the monitor is cut off, an alarm immediately sounds, and officers are able to locate the device and determine where the absconder was last seen.

Probation officers can check on their charge at any time, but the offenders are also being monitored, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a monitoring center.

In addition to tracking offenders by location and even the speed at which they are moving, the officer has the ability to make certain locations off-limits.

"We can actually exclude every bar in town or the address of the victim in a domestic violence case," said Summers.

For the NASA astronaut, the Florida judge made east of Orange County, Fla., off limits. The alleged victim works at Cape Canaveral, which is east of Orange County.

If the offender ventures into off-limit areas an alarm is triggered and the police will respond. Officers also have the ability to remotely vibrate the anklet or set off a siren as a reminder to the offenders that they are being watched.

The best part of the program? Its $15 cost per-day per-person is paid for by the offender, said Planeta.

"It's a win, win for the city because they aren't paying to house these people in jail and they aren't paying for the monitors," he said.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice, nationally the average cost to keep an offender in prison is about $65 a day. The Carson City Jail figures a cost of $100 per day, per inmate.

Putting someone on house arrest makes economic sense and GPS monitoring those people makes security sense, said Summers.

"Before we only knew when they were home. Now we know where they are all the time," she said.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.

Looking ahead

In the future, victim's of domestic violence will carry a receiver that can detect if the offender who harmed them is nearby. The receiver will pick up the GPS tracking device worn by the offender who is being monitored by Carson City's Alternative Sentencing department, said David Ezell, dealer of TrackerPal.

TrackerPal is also developing a "proximity alarm," so that when two units are near each other, an alarm is sent to the probation officer. Probationers are not allowed to fraternize with others on probation.

For information on TrackerPal visit or e-mail Ezell at dezell@alternative or

The TrackerPAL combines miniaturized cellular and global positioning system (GPS) technologies into a small device that straps to an offender's ankle. Backed by round-the-clock monitoring and a powerful geographical information system database, TrackerPAL automatically tracks and monitors the location of offenders in real-time anywhere in the world, while also providing supervising officers constant communication with offenders.

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