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Program Links Crime Scenes, Sex Offenders

Parolees' movements, tracked by GPS, are now cross-referenced with O.C. crime reports.

October 29, 2005|Susana Enriquez | Times Staff Writer

In the first program of its kind in the country, high-risk sex offenders in Orange County are being tracked via satellite using electronic ankle bracelets to determine their proximity to crimes, officials said Friday.

While other parolees nationwide are also being tracked using global positioning systems, Orange County's collaboration between the Sheriff's Department and the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is the first to automatically cross-reference parolees' whereabouts with crime locations.

"It's one of those great tools to potentially identify a suspect, but it also helps us eliminate those people who have not committed the crime," said Sheriff Michael S. Carona .

Twenty-one high-risk sex offenders in Orange County began being tracked by GPS this week. Officials expect to increase the number to 40 within two weeks.

Sex offenders are classified as high-risk based on the number of their victims, the violence of their offenses and the likelihood of their committing a crime again. The time they will be monitored will vary depending on the terms of their parole, and could range from two to seven years.

The Sheriff's Department sends the Department of Corrections information on each day's crimes, including the type, location and time.

The system matches crime scenes with parolees' locations. If a parolee was within 500 feet of a crime scene, the state notifies the Sheriff's Department. The department can also ask which parolees were closest to a crime scene.

GPS systems are more advanced than the previous generation of electronic bracelets, which let authorities know via telephone when a parolee was not at home. GPS shows parolees' exact locations 24 hours a day, helping investigators track them down when they want to talk to them.

Carona said the system could have been helpful in the 2002 case of the kidnapping, sexual assault and slaying of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. The Sheriff's Department received 4,000 leads within 48 hours, about 300 of which pointed to registered sex offenders and other parolees, he said.

With this tracking system, investigators would have been able to eliminate the sex offenders who were nowhere near Samantha.

Monitoring a parolee with GPS costs the state $8.75 per day in addition to the $9.70 per day it costs to supervise someone on parole.

The state is paying for the two-year pilot program.

San Diego County began a pilot program in July that allows officials to find where 80 of its parolees have been. But the program does not link the parolees' whereabouts to crime scenes.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is increasing the use of GPS to keep track of parolees, said Roderick Q. Hickman, the department's secretary. He said the goal is to track 500 parolees by July.

Some counties will be able to use a system similar to Orange County's, he said.

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