SUFFOLK’S SPY IN THE SKY (Plans for summer launch of GPS program that could shadow sex offenders, drunken drivers 24 hours a day)

This summer, Suffolk County will embark on a program that will use global positioning system technology to more closely monitor a wide range of chronic abusers who commit serious and violent crimes.  Suffolk plans to place GPS ankle bracelets on convicted sex offenders, repeat DWI offenders, drug users and dealers, and the perpetrators of spousal abuse.  The devices will provide monitoring 24 hours a day, giving probation officers minute by minute reports of an offender's exact location.

Laura Ahearn of Parents for Megan's Law praised the use of GPS but said offenders must be physically monitored, too.  The use of GPS alone is not going to eliminate child sexual abuse, she said.

Suffolk passed legislation last year to monitor Level 2 and 3 sex offenders and extended that to include Level 1 offenders earlier this month.  The pilot program will cost roughly $300,000 to set up and $10 a day per offender.

GPS devices consist of an ankle bracelet and a pager-type tracking device worn on the waist.  Probation officers can set a curfew for sexual offenders, designating the exact time an offender can leave his home and when he should return.  Officials also can set boundaries to keep sex offenders a set distance from schools, playgrounds and other places where children congregate.  Any violation will result in a probation officer being notified immediately via pager or e-mail.

The following are some jurisdictions that use GPS to monitor sex offenders and other parolees:

- San Bernardino, California - Program started March 2006

State-funded pilot program tracks 20 gang member parolees and 20 sex offenders.

- Morristown, New Jersey - Program started March 2006

Monitoring 20 sex offenders for life; state begins $3 million program to track released sex offenders.

- Louisiana - Program started March 2006

Corrections department requested funding for pilot program to monitor 100 high-risk sex offenders.

- Iowa - Program started March 2006

Department of Corrections' $1.3 million program monitors 500 sex offenders.

- Britain - Program started March 2006

Monitoring registered sex offenders and other criminals in parts of London and Scotland.

- Las Vegas - Program started January 2006

Completed one-month pilot program to track the most serious sex offenders.

- Tennessee - Program started September 2005

Board of Probation and Parole pilot program monitors nearly 400 sex offenders.

- Florida - Program started May 2005

Mandatory lifetime tracking of those convicted of sex crimes against children age 11 and younger.

(New York)