The $9 dilemma: Ankle monitors that don't work

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by REBECCA LOPEZ / WFAA-TV

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

wfaa.com

Posted on April 15, 2010 at 9:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 15 at 10:13 PM

NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE

Attaching an ankle monitor to a convicted criminal is an alternative to jail. The device is designed to keep officials posted on an individual's whereabouts at all times.

But what's the point if the checks and balance system is out of balance — and leaning in the offender's favor?

Keeping track of criminals on probation isn't easy. Despite monitoring devices, they get lost in the system — especially the kind of monitoring devices Dallas County uses.

It is old technology.

"You don't know where they are... you just know where they are not supposed to be," said former Criminal District Judge Vickers Cunningham.

And that's the problem.

People like Keon Thompson slip through the monitoring cracks. Police told News 8 he was miles from his home and allegedly selling drugs while not one, but two monitors were clamped to his ankles.

"Cost. That's the bottom line," Cunningham said.

The county hasn't been willing to pay the money to accurately track probationers. It would cost about $9 a day, but some of the cost could be passed on to the offenders.

Dallas County isn't willing to upgrade, so the problem repeats itself.

"We had a defendant in my court that had over 250 violations, and it was never brought to my attention," Cunningham said.

GPS tracking is the answer; the same system used by millions of motorists for navigation can also pinpoint someone's exact location.

"We can zoom in on satellite tracking and we can get a street view and show the corner he was standing on," Cunningham explained.

News 8 tested the system; the GPS tracker monitored our every move. It even showed what parking space was used when stopped.

This technology would keep track of thousands of criminals from pedophiles to murderers.

The question, then: Is $9 a day a small price to pay for safety?

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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