Tracking Sex Offenders With GPS Isn't A Bulletproof Solution

from the panacea? dept

A 13-year-old girl in Washington was killed last month by a registered sex offender who was being monitored with a GPS tracking device. The tragedy illustrates how such tracking devices — whether fitted to criminals or children — aren’t magic bullets that offer total protection. In this case, the GPS device helped police corroborate the killer’s confession, but it didn’t stop the crime. He was being tracked passively, not in real-time, but even if he were, the fact that he was in a field wouldn’t have helped anyone notice that he was trying to rape, and then killing, the girl. The devices may prove useful from an evidence standpoint, but that’s only after a crime is committed. Perhaps part of the intention is that they’ll also act as a deterrent, though sadly that wasn’t any help in this case. Whatever the intention, it’s important to remember that the devices themselves really don’t offer much protection, and shouldn’t be viewed as standalone solutions to preventing crime.

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Comments on “Tracking Sex Offenders With GPS Isn't A Bulletproof Solution”

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GeneralEmergency (profile) says:

The problem with this technology is...

…that it is only half of a solution.

Had the GPS bracelet had a bluetooth receiver and the child’s clothing had a bluetooth chirper sewn in, then the Sex offender’s bracelet could have called the police once the child chirper had been in proximity for two solid minutes. The police could know the offender’s name and address, the child’s name and address and the location of where they we both together in seconds.

LK says:

Re: Re: Re: The problem with this technology is...

With your logic, the next step should be implanting the Bluetooth chip under skin, so the kids would be protected even if they’re naked. That’s a ridiculous idea!

From the technological point of view, i think the better thing would be to use some bodyheat, heartbeat, brainwave sensors on the criminal’s body, which are connected to this GPS-detector, so that they would react on a physiological pattern indicating that the guy is probably doing something wrong. It’s obvious, that if you’re raping and killing someone, your pulse would go high and some other detectable body parameters would change. And with technology like polygraphs and lie-detectors it is absolutely possible to create a “killer pattern”, that would activate panic button at the police station, when the guy is involved in some suspicious action. The polygraph detectors works with much more subtle body reactions, and they’re known to be quite accurate. And even if there would be some false reactions, i think it’s better for a known sex-offender to be disturbed by police than for hundreds of kids to be wired with Bluetooth collars and living in a permanent fear to be raped and molested.

Anonymous Coward says:


Apparently the girl had a habit of risky behavior and put herself into a situation where she was exposing herself to unacceptable risk. If it wasn’t this guy, it would have been someone else, and the end result would have been the same. The GPS-tracking issue is a total non-starter: the real point is to teach and train kids not to be completely utterly oblivious to the world around them and thing nothing will ever happen and that everything exists to serve them.

Man from Atlanta says:

The disconnect is instructive

There’s an awful lot of back and forth over the years about the deterrent effect of punishment. The GPS makes punishment a lot more likely; the offender ignored that and the criminal justice community should take note and explore this type of data further. This might help prove once and for all that most criminals are flat out stupid and cannot think past the (very) short term.

#6 – not sure if you are writing tongue in cheek, but I am a fan of the concept that criminal justice should focus on “guardians,” things that reduce propensity toward crime when they are near. A “mom” can be a guardian, as can a streetlight. People also ought to understand the concept too, as a means of staying safer.

Regardless, it’s a horrible crime and wrong to blame the victim. How many of us weren’t reckless teenagers?

I worry that #2 is right and sex crimes are too caught up in election politics and ill-fitting constitutional jurisprudence. More behavioral science and common sense is needed to begin to prevent them more effectively.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Re: Panacea?

Have to agree. The GPS tracker is a deterrent for some who would rather not have to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Apparently this guy felt he needed the rape more than his freedom. Without the tracker would they have been able to pin the crime on him as easily?

cindly says:

Re: Re: Panacea?

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TheStuipdOne says:

Re: Re:

EXACTLY! Violent sex offenders should be considered to have given up the right to keep their balls. They should be imprisoned, castrated, and be required to spend some amount of time in counseling.

Someone is going to cry cruel and unusual punishment at that, but I say it fits the crime perfectly, is less cruel than rape, and isn’t the unusual for guys to lose their balls in accidents, because of cancer, or from a rather effective kick from the rape victim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is the most interesting part of this entire subject.

“Licy’s family had reason to be cautious. Hager was raped twice as a teen and Licy’s grandmother was kidnapped as a child, Hager said, so the family was extra vigilant with Licy and Hager’s young daughters.”

someone should study them to find out why they attract predators.

As far as Pedifiles go they either need to be killed or locked up for life. I perfer killed… This whole okay you’ve done your time but we are going to make the rest of your life a living hell by pinning a scarlet letter on you, that just waste my tax money is crap.

Eric says:

Tracking in Probation...

I work for a probation department. We’ve looked into these systems before. The only thing they are really for is to see if a sex offender has gone places he shouldn’t. They are supposed to stay so far away from schools and playgrounds and places that serve alcohol or strip joints. You can setup zones so that if he goes into one of these areas, then you will be alerted right away.

The GPS units are pretty much only for that. So that if he is going places he shouldn’t be, you can revoke his probation and put him back into jail. They are also very expensive systems and a pain in the butt to keep up w/, that’s why we never went to it.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

GPS tracking of criminals

While I agree overall, I object to the highly inductive reasoning used!
The quote I object to is: “Whatever the intention, it’s important to remember that the devices themselves really don’t offer much protection, and shouldn’t be viewed as standalone solutions to preventing crime.”
Hello! It failed ONE time, and we are to make a final judgement? Give me a BREAK! Devices such as this MAY OR MAY NOT “offer much protection”; we can’t tell from a single case! Certainly they don’t offer absolute protection, but implying that we should discard the technology because it failed once is like getting rid of autos because they sometimes are involved in fatalities! OOPS! With global warming maybe getting rid of autos IS a good idea!

icu (profile) says:


After reading all the comments, it appears to me that most are impulsive reactive conclusions. Not much thought in the long view of things. In regards to sex offenders, the issue is sex deviance of the norm which falls under the laws of our communities. In this case of the little girl, it sounds more like a murder than a sex offence. In sex offences the trauma lies in the therapy following the act. In most cases life is adjusted and one can move on. Murder on the other hand is permanent, forever and cannot be unchanged in anyway. This ideology (what can we do so this doesn’t happen again), is fine for the Corporations environment. But, it doesn’t work in the human dynamics and social net works. One cannot control another’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
Some were alone the way this time in history has place more importance on sex offenders than on murder. Examples: drug dealer, gangs, drunk drivers, risky employers, medical field, and manufactures. The focus on the child is beginning to make me sick. My opinion, this allows one to focus on someone else rather than themselves. Personal responsibility is fading and being replaced with coherency and delusional thinking. In hard times the population needs a common fear, what is more sensitive than ones children, and how any of us don’t even think before we say, I’ll kill him if anything happens to my child? Response or reaction?

Lassen County resident says:

convicted murderer

I am a resident of Lassen County, CA and the state of CA just paroled a serial killer who got off on a technicality here. They claim we will be safe because they put a GPS ankle bracelet on him!!! Do you really think this is going to keep ANYONE safe? Well we don’t! This is a very rural community and some places in the county don’t even have 24/7 patrol. They have moved a fifth wheel in on state prison grounds for him & have a Correctional Officer supposedly with him at all times.

We have 2 state prisons & a Federal prison in the county so we entertain prison families & released felons as it is… but now the state wants to use us as a dumping ground for a convicted serial killer and tell us it’s safe because he’s wearing a GPS?? I think NOT!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I was gona say that no, gps trackers are not essential in deterrence as they give out limited information on the criminal except for their location. This could play as a positive or a negative attribute but will depend on the situation and/or claim against the offender. For example, that rapist was tracked in the place of the rape & murder. Was it beneficial at the time, no, but down the road when solving a case yea except it didn’t help to save that child’s life. However, false statements and or claims against this ex serial killer, rapist, or murder such as “oh I seen him at a school playground watching the little kids during recess” or, “he tried to attack me in the park” could be tracked using the gps monitor that this offender will have on him to pinpoint his whereabouts during the times of these reported “crimes”.Yes, serial killers also need protection from the general public that is. However, the general public also needs protection from these serial killers and by having gps monitoring are we actually safe?

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