(Page 2 of 2)

Shooting Puts Gps Trackers Under Scrutiny

State Has Increasingly Used Devices To Monitor Youths

July 18, 2009|By Justin Fenton and Melissa Harris | Justin Fenton and Melissa Harris,Justin.fenton@baltsun.com and Melissa.harris@baltsun.com

Brown, a spokeswoman for DJS, initially said Davis had cut off his monitoring bracelet, but police and his attorney said Friday that the anklet was on when he was arrested. It is also unclear whether a juvenile master ordered that Davis be placed on home monitoring or whether he was continuing a punishment already put in place by juvenile services officials. Juvenile court proceedings in Maryland are sealed.

"When you look at these records, how can you make the decision to put a person on home arrest versus putting them somewhere where they can get some intensive help?" Dixon said on WBAL radio.

O'Malley asked the legislature last year for $1 million to fund the GPS technology and beef up the Violence Prevention Initiative, which closely monitors youth on probation and aftercare in Baltimore City and surrounding counties.

"With the ability to constantly monitor offenders, we will make great strides in improving our supervision and treatment practices, taking us one step further towards making our communities safer," O'Malley said at the time.

Through a purchasing agreement with Loudoun County, Va., the state entered into a contract with iSECUREtrac last fall. The Department of Juvenile Services initially leased 30 GPS units in August 2008 and an additional 30 in November 2008. According to state records, DJS decided in December that it needed to expand the program to "prevent youth offenses during the holiday season and thereafter."

Using emergency funds, the department secured another 170 GPS units on Dec. 11, at a cost of $581,298. The purchase did not come before the Board of Public Works until five months later, at the board's May 6 meeting. A transcript of that meeting shows that Treasurer Nancy Kopp accused DJS of poor planning.

"Just so I understand, you had been working on a contract through this interstate agreement for some time, [and] decided on a date not clear in December that all of a sudden there was an emergency," Kopp said. "Quite candidly, I don't think there was an emergency. I think there was a lack of planning."

Kopp, O'Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot ultimately approved the move.

O'Malley then asked his budget secretary, Eloise Foster, to write a letter to Cabinet secretaries to remind them that "emergency rules are for emergencies."

The state plans to rent up to 70 additional units, bringing the total to 300, before scaling back the initiative to 250 in August, according to documents.

Baltimore Sun reporters Julie Bykowicz and Laura Smitherman contributed to this article.

GPS tracker under scrutiny

State government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure a growing number of GPS devices designed to track juvenile offenders and others. Their use has come into question since a juvenile wearing one was accused of shooting a 5-year-old girl.

Pros and cons of the new devices:

* Together, the anklet and transmitter help officials monitor movements in real time.

* The state will know within minutes if the wearer has gone off the grid. With past devices, it could have been hours.

* Once the devices are separated by more than 150 feet, the transmitter becomes useless. Offenders don't even need to cut off the anklet to avoid being tracked.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.