GPS system used locally

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 3, 2007

It is a high-tech way of solving an age-old problem.

The Lawrence County Adult Probation Agency has implemented a new monitoring system to help keep track of both convicts who are on probation and people who are on home confinement in lieu of a jail stay.

Instead of the traditional ankle bracelet that sets off an alarm if the wearer leaves his or her home, this system employs global positioning system (GPS) that not only sounds an alarm, it notifies authorities and keeps minute-by-minute track of where the person is going.

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Carl Bowen, chief probation officer, said he got the new system, TrackerPal, in early November. As of Thursday, 11 people were fitted with the new ankle devices.

The Sandy, Utah-based SecureAlert handles the monitoring and alerts local authorities to any infractions of the rules.

Each wearer’s information is entered into a computer system. The probation officer can program specific perimeters for each wearer.

If, for instance, the wearer is allowed to leave his or her home to go to work, the officer can add this to the perimeter. If the wearer, for instance, is on probation for drunken driving and is not allowed to enter a bar, that information can be added. If the wearer is not allowed around schools or child care facilities, that information can be added.

“The awesome thing about it, as soon as they go where they are not supposed to be, we get a call from the monitoring company,” Bowen said. “The monitoring people can talk to them and they can talk back. If they go into a crack house or a bar, we’ll know it.”

The ankle bracelet has sensors that are activated if they try to remove the device.

Victim alert devices can be added to the system but Lawrence County does not have any yet. The device would be left with, for example, a domestic violence victim who fears for his or her safety at the hands of an abuser who is either on home confinement or probation.

“The best thing about it is you can set a perimeter around a victim and if the abuser gets within that perimeter the victim can be notified and it also alerts the police,” Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Judge Charles Cooper said. Both he and fellow Judge, D. Scott Bowling, said they were very pleased and impressed with TrackerPal and its capabilities — and the possibility of saving money by placing some people on home confinement to allevaiet overcrowding at the Lawrence County Jail.

“It costs between $45 and $50 a to keep an inmate in jail,” Bowling pointed out. “This costs $13 a day and that is paid by the person being monitored. So this is saving the county an average of $37 a day for each qualified individual on it.”

Lawrence County is the only one in the area using this system.