Shades of George Orwell: Big Brother may be coming soon to a neighborhood near you – in a good way. One of the most innovative applications of GPS technology so far involves the use of global positioning satellite devices to track convicted sex offenders.
At least 23 states have passed laws allowing for this innovative use of GPS technology, according to a survey last year by the Pennsylvania Board Of Probation and Parole. Beginning in July, parolees in Wisconsin will be required to wear either ankle bracelets and GPS devices on their belts that make it possible for their movements to be tracked, to ensure that they maintain a safe distance from schoolyards and playgrounds.
The use of GPS technology in tracking offenders offers a unique and affordable option for law enforcement officials seeking to create safer neighborhoods and increase citizens’ peace of mind. And while privacy advocates may find reason to protest, this innovative use of GPS technology is sure to win its share of supporters, in spite of its Orwellian overtones. Others criticize the use of GPS technology to track offenders because it merely tells the location of the sex offender without providing information about what he or she is doing.
When implemented, most states will likely choose a passive GPS monitoring system that results in a daily report detailing the offender’s whereabouts during the previous 24 hours. Active, or real time monitoring is considered too costly to be practical. Current cost estimates of passive monitoring are in the $5 to $10 range per offender per day, according to an article last June 6 in USA Today’s online edition.