Lawmakers Propose Bill to Penalize Parolees Who Cut Off GPS Tracking Devices

28 Feb 2013


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Government officials in California are attempting to pass a bill that will penalize parolees released from prison with a felony offense if  they cut off their GPS tracking devices.

Law enforcement agencies around the country are beginning to attach GPS tracking devices to released sex offenders. The devices are helping to monitor the actions of various parolees, mostly sex offenders in the Sacramento area.

The majority of the GPS devices are in the form of ankle bracelets, similar to those worn by criminals who are on house arrest. Sex offenders and a variety of other parolees in increasing numbers are being forced to wear the GPS trackers so law enforcement can monitor their movements — and keep them from unauthorized zones such as schools and public parks.

One such sex offender is Fidel Tafoya, a 48 year old repeat sex offender who cut off his GPS ankle bracelet in November 2012 after being released from a local prison on parole.  Just days later, Tafoya was charged with sexual battery on a student at a local campus.

Currently, there is not a bill that would punish sex offenders like Tafoya for removing the tracking device.

According to Jim Patterson, the state assemblyman in Fresno, California, the concern — because the jails in California are so crowded — is with getting sex offenders back in prison if they break their parole by cutting off the gps tracking devices.

“What I care about is that we get these criminals back behind bars,” Patterson told reporters. “Because I don’t want somebody else’s daughter to be molested in a library at a university.”

The GPS ankle bracelets are programmed to track the location of sex offenders released from prison and keep them from entering certain zones like public parks, libraries, or schools. In California, released sex offenders and some gang members released on parole are required to wear the anklet monitor devices. Parole agents get notified immediately when the bracelets are cut off, as is true with the tracking devices of criminals on house arrest. However, there is no further punishment, such as being charged with a felony act, on the law books today, for cutting off the GPS tracking device.

“Sex offenders by law need to be monitored, and when they cut off their GPS ankle bracelets, for instance, they’re violating a law, and preventing the state from monitoring them,” state senator Ted Lieu in Torrance, California said. “And they have high recidivism rates and we don’t want them going after children.”

According to recent reports, there are about 7,500 parolees in California and about 1.5 percent of them who have cut off their GPS tracking devices. While this seems low, it is still over 75 sex offenders who are on the streets without being monitored.

Assemblyman Patterson and Senator Lieu are both trying to pass bills that make cutting the GPS tracking bracelets off a felony and will land the sex offenders back in prison.

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