Parolees find ways to cut loose from GPS tracking devices

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) An Eyewitness News viewer who gave his name simply as "Pat" wanted to know why we "constantly kept showing sex-offender parolees who take off their GPS tracking device."

Pat also asked if it was because sex-offender parolees know they can "get away with it."

Bakersfield Parole Agent Supervisor James Stanton said that when any parolee disables their global positioning satellite device, that action automatically triggers a series of steps that alerts agents and the media.

"The alerts are happening, because of the way it was designed," said Stanton.

A GPS tracking device resembles a cellphone that is strapped on to the ankle. Parole agents are able to monitor every move a parolee makes, keeping track of all places they go. When a parolee cuts off the device, a parole agent is alerted through a computer system, said Stanton.

A warrant is issued for the parolee's arrest, and an alert is sent out to media outlets to alert the public.

"Then we go out and find the guy," said Stanton.

The problem, however, is that it is not that difficult to break away from a GPS device. The plastic strap is usually cut off, and the parolee dashes for freedom. It may take hours, days or weeks to catch the parolee.

Would designing a better mouse trap help? Stanton said the GPS cannot be strapped too tightly to the parolee so as to pose health risks, such as cutting off circulation. And, there's nothing currently in the works that might replace it.