The constitution says most people accused of violent crimes for the first time are allowed to bond out of jail, but tracking the ones assigned to home confinement hasn't been easy for officers until now.
A new system unveiled in Kanawha County means every step can be followed. That makes an enormous difference. When you think of a GPS you probably think of a GPS tracker you can pick up at any electronics store. When it comes, though, to law enforcement using GPS tracking to keep up with criminals, it is a very different story.
Until now, home confinement was largely based on the honor system. Now there will be no uncertainly of someone’s whereabouts.
“They’d go away from a monitoring device for work and we'd have to have an officer go physically check on them to see if they were where they were supposed to be. Now with GPS we know every minute of the day we know exactly where they are and if they deviate from anything we tell them to do then we'll know immediately,” Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said.
The new GPS tracking device comes in two parts. The first part is an ankle bracelet that has to stay on a person. The other part is what has the GPS tracking device in it. The two have to stay within 50 feet of each other, if they take one step in any direction outside of that perimeter and an alarm is sounded.
“It sends the alert to that individual officer, through their pager and tells them what the alert is,” Harry Carpenter of Kanawha County Home Confinement said.
Right now the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department says they'll concentrate on sexual offenders and domestic batterers and the new system can be situation specific.
“As an example in a domestic situation we can exclude a person from a certain area around where the victim works or lives,” Sheriff Rutherford said.
“I think all of us as we release people who are accused of committing crimes back into the community with certain terms and conditions we want to know they are fulfilling those. So, yes, this will give us another level of assurance, but again we have to look at each case and see how comfortable we can be,” Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Walker said.
Kanawha County is the first in the state to get this kind of GPS tracking. Each device costs around $2,200 and right now the county has 15. The sheriff says he hopes to double or even triple that in the next year.
If a judge assigns the GPS as part of a bond and it's not available, then the person will stay in jail until one becomes available.
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