Tech keeps track of parolees
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Sep 05, 2002
A Florida county sheriff's office has begun using a new electronic system
that not only tracks a parolee's whereabouts, but also plots his or her
location relative to crimes committed in an area during the previous 24
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office began using VeriTracks, developed
by Veridian Corp., about a month ago, the first agency in the nation to
implement the cutting-edge system, company officials said. Veridian landed
the $675,000, three-year contract following successful testing with the
state's corrections and law enforcement departments and a dozen other local
agencies late last year.
Such a system, company officials said, could reduce recidivism among
parolees, a significant problem nationally, said Gary Yates, director of
advanced public safety programs at Veridian. Citing national statistics,
officials said that 40 percent of the felons sentenced to probation in state
courts are arrested within 36 months for a new felony offense.
"Anonymity and opportunity are the two basic reasons why people commit
crime," said Yates, who has worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
for 25 years and the FBI for two years. He said law enforcement lacks adequate
staffing to constantly monitor parolees — one probation officer may be
in charge of as many as 150 parolees.
However, company officials said VeriTracks can monitor individuals more
effectively, reduce overcrowding in jails and save taxpayers money. In Seminole
County, it costs $48 a day to keep someone in jail as opposed to $6 a day
to track them in the system, Yates said. All or part of the cost can be
assessed to the parolees themselves by judges, he added.
A parolee is outfitted with a tamper-resistant ankle bracelet that is
electronically tethered to a Global Positioning System unit the size of
a cell phone anchored to the individual's belt. (Such GPS devices have been
in use for several years.) The device records "every minute of every day,
the latitude and longitude of where in the world this person is," Yates
said. If the devices are separated beyond 120 feet, law enforcement officials
At the end of the day, the individual would put the GPS unit into a
cradle, which recharges the device and automatically downloads all location
data to a server in Veridian's Arlington, Va., headquarters. During the
night, VeriTracks then compares the individual's whereabouts with extracted
criminal incident data — such as the location of an offense, and the time
or time range committed. If there's a hit, the system generates a report
and alerts a police or parole officer.
Police and parole officers can view the encrypted information via a
browser using public-key infrastructure. They can see a computerized map
of the parolee's location in relation to criminal incidents.
He said the data the system generates is not considered evidence to
convict someone. A law enforcement investigator still must collect information
and make a case against an individual.
Yates said the system could streamline law enforcement investigations
of a crime.
"If there's a real whodunit, one of the things police usually [do] is
talk to the usual suspects," he said. "If I'm a tracked offender and was
28 miles away from an armed robbery, I'm not implicated and don't get bothered
personally, and police [don't] have to spend hours and dollars to find someone
who wasn't there."
Brian Moran, Veridian's program manager for VeriTracks, said the product
also can alert officials if parolees have violated zones they were not allowed
to enter. For example, police can see whether a husband violates a restraining
order if he comes near his wife's home. Moran said police would be able
to find patterns of where a parolee may go, such as spending time near school
zones or other places the individual is barred from approaching.
Both Moran and Yates said the system has sparked a great deal of interest
among other Florida state and local agencies and other states.