Home News Debate on whether GPS can keep track of released sex offenders

Debate on whether GPS can keep track of released sex offenders

While lawmakers US point to GPS technology as a tool in keeping track of released sex offenders, GPS tracking isn’t without limitations. In a best case scenario, it may take four to five minutes for GPS tracking systems to notify officials that a sex offender has strayed into a restricted area. Depending on where a sex offender is located in the state, it could take much longer. Senators followed the progression an offender as they left home and travelled by various roads to work. Further, GPS cannot fall prey to computer hackers.

Indeed, while system coverage in the metro is good, coverage diminishes in Greater Minnesota, Gary Shelton, of Midwest Monitoring/Surveillance, told the Senate committee on Wednesday (Feb. 18). Factors such as building structure can influence whether global position satellites can get a read.

“It’s not as good as I’d like to have,” said Sen. Leo Foley, DFL-Coon Rapids, Senate crime prevention and public safety committee chair.

“I’d be surprised if I picked up a GPS signal in this building,” said Shelton, speaking in the Capitol.

Additionally, Shelton explained GPS surveillance works better in terms of miles than feet — GPS systems don’t track quick enough to work well in close proximity “It will not stop someone from committing a crime,” he said. Further, Shelton qualified use of the term “real time” in describing how instantaneous GPS tracking is — he used the qualifier “near.”

Even if the system is broken into, data is encrypted. The hacker would end up with garbage, he said. Although Gov. Pawlenty exhibited a GPS ankle-bracelet at a recent press conference, Shelton explained an offender also needs to carry additional technology — a portable box. It costs about $18 per day to track people on GPS technology, he said. GPS will probably be part of the state’s response to keeping track of sex offenders. But he believes a more valuable tool will be the use lie detectors.