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Apr 4, 11:19 PM

 

40 parolees monitored using GPS

 

Goal is to arrest ex-convicts who commit crimes

 

BY J.D. GALLOP

FLORIDA TODAY

 

Parolees beware that computerized eye in the sky just got smarter.

 

A pilot Global Positioning System that combines crime mapping with the whereabouts of ex-convicts is online as a tracking program in Brevard County and three nearby counties. The goal is to determine whether an ex-convict was near where a new crime occurred.

 

Sheriff Phil Williams said the system, Veri-Tracks, is more sophisticated than previous satellite-tracking technology.

 

"It's like having a football play drawn out and then having the field overlaid on top of that," he said.

 

In Brevard, the technology is being used to track 40 parolees -- out of 600 statewide in the state Department of Corrections program. The devices can be worn at the waist or as bracelets.

 

The system was paid for with a $1.8 million federal grant. It feeds information on the parolees' locations into a computer in Virginia that also has access to crime data from the Brevard County Sheriff's database.

 

"If one of those offenders shows up (near a crime), we get a notice," said Cmdr. Mark Riley of the Sheriff's Office.

 

One potential use would be to track court-designated sexual predators who might go near a school zone, he said.

 

Williams said the system can show whether a parolee was as close as six feet from where a crime was committed, committed, Williams said.

 

Brevard could see up to 100 more ex-convicts shackled with the GPS-based devices, with another 900, across Florida if state legislators back a plan to expand the program.

 

The targeted area would be another 21 counties near the Interstate 4 corridor, an area responsible for 70 percent of the crime reported in Florida, Williams said.

 

Brevard County already uses older GPS technology to track jail inmates released on bond, although few officials see it as a viable way of relieving crowding at the detention center.

 

"It's used on a case-by-case basis," said Circuit Judge Charles Holcomb, recently assigned to chair the Jail Oversight Committee, which reviews operations at the Brevard County Detention Center.

 

Violent offenders eligible for bond are considered for the older GPS tracking technology, he added.

 

"But first, we carefully review whether these persons pose a substantial threat to the community," he said.

 

Sheriff's agents began tracking state parolees at the end of March and trained on the device earlier in the month.

 

Contact Gallop at 242-3668 or jdgallop@flatoday.net

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