Duluth PD Explores GPS Monitoring to Cut Crime

By KBJR News 1

February 6, 2012 Updated Feb 6, 2012 at 12:19 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Duluth police have their hands full with significantly increasing break-ins and thefts.

And they know that most of those crimes are being committed by the same people over and over again. Stats show many of the crimes are committed by repeat offenders.

In fact. Minnesota has the worst record for recidivism in the US.
In a three year span, a recent study by PEW Center on the States shows more than half of those released from state prison committed another crime.

Something that's working in other areas to curb career criminals is the same thing you use in your car to get you where you're going, GPS.

45-year-old Michael Peters admitted to breaking into at least eight homes using inside job information about customers.

34-year-old Robert Schuller pleaded guilty to breaking into at least three Duluth businesses.

These guys, along with dozens of others, will eventually serve time for their crimes. But, what happens when they get out? Statistics show some will probably go right back to their lives of crime.

"We continue to have problems with property crimes, garage, burglaries, thefts from automobiles and we know it's the same people who keep committing those crimes," said Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.

In fact, Duluth Police say last year alone there were more than 1,200 car break-ins across the city. Chief Gordon Ramsay says just 10 to 15 people were responsible.

"We know those were perpetrated by certain individuals. We know who is doing it and we need to be more effective in monitoring them and holding them responsible."

To cut down the number of habitual offenders and their crimes, the chief says he's exploring the idea of using GPS monitoring ankle bracelets in conjunction with the courts.

The devices would be issued as part of sentencing or while they await trial.

Electronic monitoring has usually been reserved for high risk repeat offenders released from state prisons.

Chief Ramsay is looking at a system currently in use by police in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, city police have seen a 94 percent success rate since its inception in 2006.

"It's pretty simple the monitor is on the offender's ankle, has a GPS receiver just like on your car, collects data about where they've been and transmits the information back," said Sgt. David Scheppegrell, with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police in North Carolina in an interview with Kevin Jacobsen via Skype.

At any given moment, Sergeant David Scheppegrell's department can pinpoint any of the city's hundreds of offenders- 24 hours a day, seven days a week-drastically reducing crime.

Gathering that information costs $3.50 a day per offender. The Sergeant says it's an investment helping catch criminals more quickly, more often.

"Quite often a judge says from the bench you have a curfew of six o'clock, but if there is no one out there enforcing that, there is no electronic way of knowing."

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says he's is convinced an electronic monitoring system in Duluth along with the online crime mapping tool already available- will help clean up the streets.

"We've got to do something," said Chief Ramsay. "The citizenry expects us to do something. This is an exciting tool that can really help us in those crime reduction efforts."

Efforts aiming to hold criminals accountable and stopping them from breaking the law again.

Chief Ramsay stresses the idea of electronically monitoring repeat offenders is very preliminary at this point. He'll need court staff, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys all on board before his department can move ahead.

Kevin Jacobsen
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