State Senator John J. Bonacic, District Attorney Stephen Lungen, Sheriff Michael Schiff, and Sullivan County Probation Department Director Genevieve Dainack, today announced that $250,000 in State funding will be made available to the County to implement a GPS tracking program for sex offenders who are sentenced to jail or probation.
Senator Bonacic has secured the passage of legislation (S.4656-B) in the Senate on two occasions which would mandate GPS tracking for all Level 3 sex offenders.
"My first preference would be to lock up sex offenders for life. The reality is, however, there are many criminals, who for varying reasons, may not be convicted at trial and end up pleading to a lesser crime. It is for those individuals, as well as for those released from jail but still under supervision, that GPS can be used as a tool to better monitor their activities," Bonacic said.
The Senator emphasized, however, that "GPS is not a replacement for longer prison terms and hands on supervision. It must be treated as supplemental to, and not in lieu of, the professional probation staff here in Sullivan County," Bonacic said.
Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen said, "I believe this could be a very useful tool in keeping track of the Level 3 predators which, in turn, will keep our communities safer."
"We should use today’s technology whenever we can, to fight crime", said Sheriff Michael Schiff. "GPS monitoring will give the law enforcement officer the added dimension of being with the offender 24 hours a day. It will make it easier to determine if they are complying with the terms and conditions of their release".
Director Dainack said, "The Sullivan County Probation Department would like to thank Senator Bonacic for securing the funding that will allow our department to participate in this pilot program. We will be able to keep our communities more safe and secure by using Global Positioning System technology to monitor certain sex offenders under Probation Supervision. Probation Officers are diligent in their supervision by making home visits and other community contacts to ensure sex offenders comply with their Order and Conditions of Probation, and we believe using GPS technology will enhance those efforts to protect the community."
Currently, more than twenty states use GPS monitoring, which is more advanced than traditional electronic monitoring. Under traditional electronic monitoring, an officer is only able to determine when the offender is in his or her residence, not where they actually are or where they have been.
Under GPS monitoring, probation officers can determine where the offender is at any given moment, or where the offender has been during the course of the day depending on whether or not the offender is on "active" or "passive" monitoring. The GPS unit is typically mounted in an ankle bracelet or is placed on a belt loop attachment which is electronically linked to an ankle bracelet. If the attachment goes too far from the GPS ankle bracelet, an alert is sent to probation officials.
The cost of the monitoring, an estimated $3,000 per year per offender, will be covered by the funding secured by Senator Bonacic, as will necessary administrative costs.
Bonacic was instrumental in securing funding in the State budget for a GPS pilot program. Sullivan becomes the second county in the State to receive funding under the pilot program. "My hope is that Sullivan and other pilot program counties will prove the value of GPS statewide and that the Assembly will change its position and realize this is one more way we can keep an eye on those who commit these type of crimes," Senator Bonacic concluded.