Tracking sex offenders by satellite | NevadaAppeal.com

Tracking sex offenders by satellite

The Nevada Department of Public Safety is trying a new, high-tech method for keeping tabs on paroled sex offenders: Satellite tracking.

Parole and Probation Chief John Gonska said the pilot program involves six sex offenders now being supervised by the division. Each man wears an electronic ankle bracelet connected to a global-positioning system tracking device. The device can’t be removed without setting off an alarm and it transmits a signal that allows its location to be plotted on a computer map.

The system allows parole and probation officers to track exactly where each of the parolees has been 24 hours a day.

“The technology is absolutely overwhelming, and the division needs to look into using this on a full-time basis,” said Sgt. Adam Page, chief of the sex offender unit in Las Vegas.

He said the 90-day pilot program costs $2,700 – which works out to $5 per day for each offender. Permanent contracts, he said, could range from $4 to $13 a day, depending on the type of equipment.

Page said, at this point, he would recommend the division take the program to the governor and Legislature to fund a long-term contract.

He said a GPS tracking system would probably be favored by many parolees as well, and could be used as an alternative to prison, which would help justify the cost.

“I’m sure if they had a choice between going to prison and going to this program, they would definitely pick this program,” he said. “It would definitely provide an alibi for them (if accused of a crime).”

“And if we have an offender who’s on lifetime supervision and we know is very likely to commit again, we can order him on this program. Knowing he’s on this monitoring all the time, the device isn’t going to prevent it, but we’ll know where he was. We’re going to know he’s the one who did it.”

He said, according to the companies who make the devices, the monitoring system greatly reduced recidivism by sex offenders because they knew their movements would be tracked.

“If they know big brother is watching them, are they going to commit that crime?”

He said those who commit crimes, even though they’re on a monitor, deserve to be locked up.

According to Page, Nevada is far from the first place to try out the equipment.

He said GPS tracking systems have been around nearly a decade and Florida has used it for a number of years.

“The technology has been out there and been battle tested,” he said.

He said the technology keeps improving and if Nevada decides to go for the system, there are now five different companies to choose from. One, he said, is essentially a GPS cellular phone so if the parole officer wants to contact an offender, he simply calls him.

The division monitors 600 sex offenders in Clark County alone. The total number statewide was not available.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.