Additional cash needed to improve devices
A handful of instances where the signal from electronic ankle monitors were foiled – literally – have forced the Cayman Islands 911 Emergency Communications Centre to consider technology upgrades to the devices three years after they were first introduced.
“We are aware that a few of our clients [criminal suspects who have monitors affixed to their ankles] have attempted to cover their electronic monitoring devices with foil with varying degrees of success,” said 911 centre director Brent Finster last week.
The latest such incident involved an individual being monitored who was picked up by police at a local nightclub during the hours he was supposed to be at home.
“[The] Royal Cayman Islands Police Service continues to do physical checks, as they always have, to ensure that persons on bail are in their approved location during curfew hours,” Mr. Finster said.
Another incident where foil was used to cover the signal from an electronic monitor involved the suspect – Joel Christopher Duncan – pleading guilty to tampering with the electronic device.
According to Crown counsel statements made in the case, aluminium foil paper, placed over an electronic monitoring device blocks the transmitting signal from the GPS device located within. When spotted by police officers sitting on a wall outside in George Town during the early morning of 6 May, 2011, police said Duncan took the foil off his monitoring device. It was later recovered by officers. Mr. Finster said foiling and other attempts to tamper with electronic monitoring devices have been noted, and if criminal suspects have done so previously they generally will not be made eligible for electronic monitoring in the future.
“It is … up to the police or courts to make the final decision, which means that the client might lose the opportunity to participate in the programme and their alternative sentence or bail conditions will be tightened or they will be remanded into custody,” Mr. Finster said. “Cooperation by the clients is key to the success of the programme.
“Clients have to be continually reminded that the use of electronic monitoring is of benefit to them as the alternative is much more invasive. Those who choose to attempt to defeat the technology in order to commit a crime or violate the conditions of their bail will be held responsible for their actions.”
The electronic monitoring devices being used by the government are rented rather than purchased, Mr. Finster pointed out. Upgrades for the devices are therefore easier to obtain.
“There will be some additional costs to implement the supplemental technology,” Mr. Finster said. “Later this year, the department will be working with the Central Tenders Committee on a tender process for a new electronic monitoring contract and the new technology will be included in that request for proposals.”
Mr. Finster also cautioned that electronic monitoring in itself was not a solution to criminal behaviour, but was just one aspect of offender rehabilitation processes used by the criminal justice system.
Cayman has been using the monitors since January 2010 on people released from the custody of local police, courts and prisons.
Cayman’s 911 system mainly carries out the orders of those three entities in tagging released prisoners.
Once an individual receives an electronic monitoring anklet, they are kept on a list by 911 – and that list is monitored from the emergency facility 24 hours, seven days a week.
The monitoring system uses GPS technology to pinpoint a subject’s location. Parameters are set in each case as to where that person can go and where they can’t. If they step outside the acceptable boundaries, 911 officials are immediately notified and call in the appropriate authorities.
Mr. Finster said there are frequent incidents where monitored individuals have stepped outside the areas in which they are allowed to travel. Some have been simple accidents, others have led to re-arrest.
The devices are waterproof and are not ever removed from the person’s ankle. They must be recharged for two hours out of every 24 hour period. If a monitored subject allows the batteries to run down, 911 is alerted.