Offender tracking system helps Va. county save big

Law enforcement officials in Roanoke County, Va., have gone into the bracelet business, but hold the cubic zirconia. These aren't the kind of accessories that will impress friends at a holiday party.

The county sheriff's department is using a potent mix of technologies including global positioning systems, ankle bracelet transmitters and Microsoft's MapPoint digital mapping software to track the whereabouts of people who have been arrested for such nonviolent crimes as petty larceny and driving-related offenses.

The department has equipped 30 nonviolent offenders with ankle bracelet transmitters from BI Inc. of Boulder, Colo., said Sgt. Brian Keenum.

Like other, similar devices used in law enforcement, the bracelets tell officials when an offender is in or out of a house, allowing that person to serve time at home and still go to work or attend mandated meetings, Keenum said.

But Roanoke's tracking system incorporates mainstream IT to track people beyond their walls. An offender clips a GPS tracking unit to his belt and it transmits the person's location when away from home. The GPS tracking device works with Microsoft MapPoint 2004, a digital mapping tool, to pinpoint the offender's location on a Web-based digital map.

The monitoring system has made the offenders more accountable, Keenum said. 'They are calling us now to ask permission to go places,' he said.

The first year the county adopted the monitoring system, it saved about $270,000, which is what it would have cost the county to house the offenders in jail.

'The only thing better would be to have somebody physically following these guys around all day,' Keenum said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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