It is widely acknowledged that electronic monitoring (EM) of offenders is a beneficial sentencing option for courts and provides a cost effective alternative to prison. The Criminal Justice Act 1991 provided the initial legislation for the introduction of EM curfews allowing offenders to be “tagged” with a radio frequency personal identification device (RFPID) and confined to a specific address for up to 12 hours a day for a period of up to 6 months.
This was succeeded by other legislation allowing short sentence prisoners to spend that last part of their sentence in the community wearing a RFPID and following the Criminal Justice Act 2003, EM curfews can now be attached to Community Orders.
Technology advancement now allows for the use of “tracking tags” that have Global Positioning Systems (GPS) functionality. Strictly speaking, GPS is the American satellite navigation system. The Russians have a more accurate system called GLONASS and their is also a European system, EGNOS, the EU forerunner to GALILEO which will provide sub-metre accuracy for receivers. For the purpose of this paper, we shall use the term GPS to describe all GNSS systems. GPS electronic tagging has proved to be a much more useful tool than the RF curfew tag. An estimated 40,000 offenders in the US are tracked 24/7 via GPS tracking tags as an alternative to incarceration.
Effectively the GPS tracking tag provides constant surveillance of offenders and can track their precise location every minute of the day and night. There are limitations with GPS such as the requirement for global satellite navigation system (GNSS) coverage, high power consumption for GSM based systems. However, assessments of projects in the US and of British pilot projects have shown the following benefits:-
- Control – allows enforcement of compliance (exclusion zones, curfews); protects victims; provides greater information about breaches which can be evidenced earlier and acted upon more speedily; allows offender managers and police to monitor offender movement and behaviour.
- Intelligence – provides information of activities and whereabouts of offenders which can support reactive investigations identifying potential suspects/recidivists or eliminating them from an enquiry.
- Rehabilitation – acts as a deterrent as the risk of detection is high; the tag provides a constant reminder and psychological reinforcement when tempted to reoffend; reduced suspicion of offender increases offender confidence and motivation to change.
Of huge significance is the greater efficiency and cost savings that can be made as a result of the identified benefits. In Bedfordshire where GPS tracking tags have been trialed, offenders connected with 459 crimes before they were tagged were linked to just 3 offences having been fitted with a GPS device. The 459 offences were estimated to have cost £1.4m while the cost of the 3 offences was just £6,100. The saving to the taxpayer was therefore considerable as well as the obvious benefit of fewer victims of crime.
Hounslow Borough will make use of GPS tags under the operation name Operation Telstar and depending on the offender circumstance it will be used in one of three ways:-
1) Voluntary usage by Integrated Offender Management (IOM) cohort members. The use of GPS tracking can be agreed by individuals on a voluntary basis, ensuring the individual has a full understanding of the scheme and the advantages and disadvantages of their participation; it is crucial that fully informed consent is achieved. Discussions of the scheme and its requirements will need to be conducted by key IOM staff from the main participating agencies, thus Police Officers and Probation staff will take the lead in suggesting to relevant individuals the agreed use of GPS tracking and the duration of deploying the GPS technology.
2) Court sanctioned GPS Tracking- The already established Bedford GPS initiative has involved negotiation with key staff at local courts to obtain agreement that GPS tracking could be used as a condition of bail and as a condition of a deferred sentence. This model could be replicated in Hounslow Borough. Deferment is always for a period of six months. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (which amends the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000) enables the court, with the consent of the offender, to impose requirements as to his conduct during the period of deferment, to secure from him an undertaking to comply with those requirements and to appoint a person to supervise and monitor him and report on his compliance.
- The offenders who will be eligible will form a very small proportion of those managed under IOM
- They will usually be addicts who commit acquisitive offences in order to fund their addiction
- They will invariably be offenders who have who have shown motivation to change
- They will have to admit to all their previous offending and ask for it to be taken into consideration when they are sentenced.
They will then be carefully monitored in the community by Police and the Probation Service. If they stay out of trouble and abide by all the conditions they will be eligible for a three year community order with substantial statutory requirements. At each stage they will be reviewed by a Judge and at the outset they will be aware what the custodial sentence would be should they fail to abide by any requirement. This method requires informed consent from the offender and would be most useful for those and had a large number of offences taken into consideration (TIC).
3) As a condition of a prison licence. Prisoners subject to release on licence (all those aged between 18-21 and those who received a prison sentence of 12 months or more for adults aged 22 or older at time of sentence) could agree to use the GPS tracking equipment as part of their release arrangements. The GPS tag could be used to monitor compliance of certain mainstream licence conditions such as curfew at an identified address, exclusion from certain geographical areas or attendance at designated locations. It is anticipated that the key issue that will need to be addressed about GPS tracking with those on licence is the matter of proportionality; that the level of restriction that the GPS tracking could involve is proportionate to the likelihood of further offending being committed by the offender. Thus, GPS tracking probably will only be authorised for use by released prisoners who have a significant offending history prior to their imprisonment. Again the wearing of the tag is voluntary.
The Local Authority, police and probation are already part of a multi agency IOM team who would select the cohort. Based on the current strategic direction for IOM cohort selection, the offender would come from the existing IOM cohort and should have an Offender Group Reconviction Scale (OGRS) score of 75%+ for all offenders and 50%+ for Serious Acquisitive Crime (SAC) offenders. Offenders must be motivated to change and support from other partner agencies engaged with IOM would be sought to provide a full wrap round service for the offender, this may include drug rehabilitation services including residential detoxification, access to education, training and employment and advice and help with housing.
It is unlikely that offenders with a history of violence or the potential for violence would be considered suitable for this scheme. Operation Telstar will form part of the existing IOM procedures and protocols. It is anticipated that the GPS cohort would initially be around 20.
Police will obtain informed consent from the offender, fit the tags and provide on going advice in relation to its use to the offender. Police and Probation will take the lead on swift identification and enforcement of any breaches including reoffending.
Experience from the Bedfordshire model shows that police interpretation of GPS data overlaying offender movements with crime maps and intelligence gives the best response.
The technology provider have agreed to a free 3 month period with costs for loss and damage underwritten by the London Borough of Hounslow. A further three months will be paid for by the local authority with consideration for continued funding should the initial operation period demonstrate success in line with the aims and objectives below.
The costs per offender of a tag are £200 per month which includes the tag itself, accessories for charging, access to the tracking platform and on going help and advice from the supplier helpline. Should any of the equipment be lost or damaged then the costs of replacement are:-
On Body Charger £90
Unit costs of crime from IOM value for money toolkit based on revised costs (2011) based on Home Office Research Study 2003/04
Aims and Objectives
1. To reduce the level of crime committed by prolific offenders subject to GPS tagging.
2. To provide a cost effective alternative to face to face supervision of offenders.
3. To provide a cost effective alternative to custody
4. Provide efficiencies in the investigation of crime.
5. To evaluate benefits of GPS tagging to IOM.
1. To reduce the number of offences committed by the IOM GPS cohort by
reducing both their capacity and their opportunity to commit crimes
2. To increase the likelihood of rehabilitation for the IOM GPS cohort
3. To provide an alternative sentencing option for those offenders who have
demonstrated a desire to change their offending behaviour.
4. To reduce the number of arrests for the IOM GPS cohort
5. To reduce the number of curfew checks for the IOM GPS cohort.
6. To reduce the number of face to face probation appointments required.
7. To provide evidence of breaches in licence conditions.
8. To provide evidence in instances where offending has taken place.
9. To provide a tool for offenders to demonstrate they are desisting from
Operation Telstar will be subject to on going review to assess both the operational and strategic success. The focus will be on achievement of the objectives above but will also hope to capture softer outcomes by way of case study. Hounslow are part of a central MPS project led by Territorial Policing Criminal Justice (TP CJ) who lead on EM and are hoping to evaluate the process of GPS Tagging within IOM. TP CJ will provide central monitoring and evaluation within the terms of reference of their project.