Florida Considers GPS Tracking of Parolees


In the wake of the murder of a 12-year-old girl whose kidnapping was caught by a surveillance camera, lawmakers in Florida are considering using global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to track paroled criminals. Law enforcement officials are lobbying state lawmakers to invest $35 million in a system that would continuously track the position of those released from prison on parole.

The body of Carlie Brucia was found behind a church Feb. 6 after a car wash surveillance camera showed a man abducting her. The man police say was on the video and charged with her murder, Joseph Smith, had violated his probation in January but could not be found by authorities before the murder.

“Had it been available, the judge could have put Joseph Smith on GPS tracking” Brevard County Sheriff Phil Williams told the St. Petersberg Times, though he acknowledge it probably wouldn’t have saved Brucia’s life. “Carlie Brucia’s body would have been found within minutes, rather than days,” he says.

The system being looked at by Florida, VeriTracks, is manufactured by General Dynamics Corp. and uses a signal in an ankle bracelet sent out to GPS satellites every 60 seconds to pinpoint a wearer’s location. Civil liberties advocates have given tentative approval to the system as long as it isn’t used to track suspects before trial.

“Nationally we have taken the position that if it is used on people on probation or parole as an alternative to remaining in incarceration, the ACLU generally does not oppose it,” Larry Spalding, Florida lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times. “We are much less enthusiastic about it being used in pretrial.”

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