Local News

Aug 20, 2013 3:57 PM by Janine Reyes

Ankle Monitor Issues Keep Probation Officers Busy

CORPUS CHRISTI -- The Nueces County Adult Probation Office monitors dozens of people each month using ankle monitors. Sounds pretty simple, but it's actually very time consuming.

The monitors send off alerts for potential violations daily, when in fact, most of the time it's just a false alarm.

Judges ordered 64 people to wear those ankle monitors last month. Probation officers filed less than ten violations, but they had to weed through 1,800 potential violation alerts. That's a lot of false alerts.

Gilbert Rojas is just one person ordered to wear an ankle monitor last month.

He ran from police and went back to jail, then tried to escape a second time when he was part of an inmate work crew. He didn't get far. That's the point for people ordered to wear those ankle monitors.

"We can actually track him on the computer very easily at any given time," explained Javed Syed with Adult Probation.

But you may be surprised to find out, they don't track them constantly. The probation officer monitoring can actually track a persons every move on a map, or use an aerial view to gauge where that person is.

A green dot means no violation, a red one mean they could be violations. "its telling me right there, zone violation," explained a supervisor who showed us the software.

But, information sent from that ankle bracelet is not exactly accurate. For example, doing something as common and mundane as just using a microwave can send a false alert.

What happens is, much like your cell phone, the device loses communication with the transmitter and that will register as a potential violation.

So, not just the microwave, but a simple trip to Sams Club, which has thick walls that could block signals, can also cause a lapse in communication. "However, when you come out of that particular area, the machine or the transmitter will communicate and say that this person had been in this area so those are not violations," Syed explained. They aren't 'real' violations.

But each one has to be checked out by a probation officer and that takes hours of work.

"I will tell you that this is a very taxing thing on our officers, when our officers have this electronic monitoring, we try not to have too many of them on anybody's case load because this really takes a lot of time," Syed explained.

The ankle monitor does vibrate and light up when it registers a potential violation, and that alone can be a deterrent.

Syed estimates it keeps about 90% of the people on them in check.

"Its a good tool to have, its not an answer to everything, but its a good tool among all the other supervision tools that we have," said Syed.

But for people like Rojas, who decided to run not once, but twice, they may be better off behind bars.

The ankle monitors have different types of alerts as well, so, probation officers know to take a tamper alert, for example, more seriously than an out of area violation. But all alerts are checked out by officers.

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