GPS technology to help monitor state juveniles

January 12, 2008|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced yesterday a high-tech monitoring system for juvenile offenders based on Global Positioning System technology, which would enable police officers to track the exact movements of 200 of Baltimore's most troubled youth.

With Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III by his side, O'Malley announced the program in the atrium of the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center, where dozens of the agency's employees had gathered. The governor plans to allocate $1 million in his budget proposal for the program, which would be put into place by July, after a bidding process for companies to supply the technology.

"For the last several years in big cities throughout our country, there has been a battle raging where drug dealers have been trying to steal the lives of our children from us," O'Malley said. "We are trying to rescue Maryland's children from the clutches of drug dealers, drug violence and drug death that has gripped too many of our children for too long."

O'Malley has made public safety initiatives a pillar of his administration's agenda this year. He announced Thursday that he would seek legislation to expand DNA sampling to people arrested for violent crimes and burglaries to help police solve old cases and clear people who might have been wrongly convicted.

The monitoring program would be used to track offenders, who are mostly 13- to 17-years-old and who are on probation or enrolled in aftercare services or the Operation Safe Kids program. It is limited to those offenders who are identified as most at risk of committing violent crimes.

The system would feed real-time information to a newly created unit at the juvenile services department on an offender's whereabouts, alerting the unit when he or she is not in school at the appropriate time or when a juvenile enters high-crime areas that are restricted under probation agreements.

Unlike previous electronic monitoring, when staff and police officers are deployed, officials will be able to find the offender through the GPS ankle devices, officials said.

O'Malley and the other officials stressed that the system is intended to keep juvenile offenders away from the city's drug culture, as well as protect communities.

"I strongly believe in my gut and in my soul that we are on the verge, as never seen here in the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore, to really reduce violent crime," Dixon said.

laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

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