While GPS monitoring systems have been a staple of parole and house arrest programs for years, the probation department in Los Angeles County, the country’s largest probation program, has been having serious problems with its new monitoring system.
A new electronic monitoring system was put into place in February of 2015 with the intention of providing more accurate tracking methods of some of the program’s more high profile criminals. However, parolees outfitted with the GPS transponders are often free to tamper with them without fear of repercussion.
Officers are apparently inundated with thousands of alerts every day from the ankle bracelet attached GPS system. Everything from blocked signals to low battery life can cause an alert to be sent to officers. As a result of the over abundance of alerts, officers have begun ignoring them. Officers are being flooded with so many meaningless alerts that, even if they could check on all of them, it is entirely likely that intentional tampering with devices in an attempt to escape police oversight would be missed amidst the many unintentional technical issues.
As a result, there have been many reports of individuals removing their trackers, including fatal incidents in New York, Colorado, and Texas. With this many issues with GPS trackers, some speculate that they might never be fully capable of meeting the needs of probation and police officers across the country.
In California, overcrowded prisons have been ordered to reduce their inmate populations substantially. GPS trackers have been touted as a method of tracking many prisoners outside of incarceration, but if these technological issues cannot be dealt with, the burden will fall to law enforcement agencies and probation officers to find new and innovative ways to track and check up on their newly released charges.