Monthly Archives: September 2013

Parole alerts drop as Calif. refines GPS tracking

A flood of electronic alerts that was inundating California parole agents has dropped by half since The Associated Press first reported the problem two years ago.

The alerts are generated by satellite-linked ankle bracelets strapped to paroled sex offenders. They send alarms when offenders tamper with the devices, stray into areas where they’re not supposed to be or move too far away from home.

But the 1.5 million alerts sent by the bracelets in 2009-10, the first two years of the state’s electronic monitoring program, overwhelmed parole agents. Typical parole agents spent 44 percent of their workweek reviewing the computer-tracked movements of parolees and just 12 percent in the field, according to an internal California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation report obtained by the AP at the time.

The number of alerts dropped to less than 744,000 for 2011-12, according to updated information obtained under a state Public Records Act request.

Several categories of alerts have diminished even more since July 2012, when the state went from two service providers to just one, Houston-based Satellite Tracking of People LLC. Changes in the programming of the GPS-linked bracelets in June 2011 and October 2012 also led to fluctuations in the number of alerts.

— In 2009-10, there were 1,520,591 alerts given off by electronic monitors in the following categories: 876 device tampers; 355,936 strap tampers; 17,017 exclusion zone alerts; 193,697 low batteries; 883,211 inclusion zone alerts; 69,854 message gaps.

— In 2011-12, there were 743,544 total alerts in the following categories: 536 device tampers; 92,174 strap tampers; 56,533 exclusion zone alerts; 86,451 low batteries; 408,658 inclusion zone alerts; 99,192 message gaps.

Among the recent changes:

— Satellite Tracking of People does not track device tamper alerts, and strap tamper alerts declined last year when the company let parole agents turn off the alarm while they investigated any initial alert showing that a parolee had damaged the strap securing the tracking device. The state also ended low battery alerts last fall in part because newer devices have extended battery life.

— The department decreased the time that ankle bracelets can be out of contact because of a blocked cellphone signal, which sharply increased the number of alerts due to what are known as message gaps.

— Exclusion zone alerts warn parole agents when a paroled sex offender approaches a prohibited area such as a school, park or playground. They can vary periodically when agents add or subtract zones, for instance if parolees are temporarily barred from an area where a county fair is underway.

— Inclusion zone alerts tell agents when paroled sex offenders leave certain areas, for instance when they leave their homes, pass beyond a 10-mile radius of their community or leave California. The number of alerts fluctuated dramatically in the last two years as the state made technical adjustments in the way the zones are monitored.

GPS tracking leads to arrest in Jefferson Parish smartphone robbery

GPS tracking led authorities to a suspect in the armed robbery of a Jefferson Parish-issued smartphone, and some low-tech detective work sealed the arrest. A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detective who tracked the phone to a Terrytown business located one suspect by the dialing up the stolen phone in his pants pocket, arrest reports said.

The HTC Evo was stolen on Aug. 22 in the 4200 block of Lac Bienville Drive in Harvey, according to Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. The victim, a male employee not identified by authorities, is employed by the parish’s Community Action Program and was on his lunch break, parish Spokeswoman Kriss Fortunato said.

The robber, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, approached the parish employee about 1:30 p.m. and stole the phone as well as some other property, Fortunato said. The next day, Jefferson Parish officials used a pre-installed GPS application to track the phone to a business in the 1800 block of Stumpf Boulevard in Terrytown, the arrest report said.

Detective Michael Cummings went to the store just before 10 a.m. last Thursday and began chatting up the customers inside. He eventually spotted a phone fitting the description of the stolen device in the pocket of a man investigators identified as Darrel Washington, 22, of Terrytown, the report said.

Cummings confirmed his suspicions, the report says, by calling the stolen phone, which began ringing in Washington’s pocket. Washington gave contradicting stories about how he came upon the stolen phone, the report said.

Cummings arrested Washington, of 721 Hinyub Ave., Terrytown, and booked him at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna with possession of stolen property.

Cummings checked the phone and discovered videos recorded with the device after it was stolen. Washington and two other men appeared in the videos, which were taken by a fourth suspect, the report said.

Cummings eventually identified Joshua London, 24, as the group’s videographer, the arrest report said. Authorities say London confessed to taking the video on a phone he knew he was stolen.

London, also of 721 Hinyub Ave., Terrytown, was booked with possession of stolen property. Neither suspect has been booked with the armed robbery. It’s still under investigation.

Bond for Washington was set at $500, but he was released without posting the bond because of crowding at the jail, court records say.

London’s bond on the stolen property charge was set at $5,000. But London was being held without bond four counts of parole violation. He is on parole after pleading guilty in 2008 to drug dealing and weapons charges.


O.C. terminates GPS firm for failing to track probationers

O.C. terminates GPS firm for failing to track probationers

August 02, 2013|By Anh Do

Probationers and defendants are often forced to wear electronic ankle bracelets.

Probationers and defendants are often forced to wear electronic ankle… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

After an internal audit revealed negligence, officials at the Orange County Probation Department have terminated a contract with a GPS monitoring service.

The audit showed that in a review of 143 cases, there were more than 15 instances of “gross negligence,” including failure to track people on probation for periods up to 28 days and not reporting individuals for repeatedly violating their probation.