Legislative Confusion Keeps Maryland GPS Tracking in Limbo

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Washington County, Maryland has about a third of the crime rate, statistically, of its sister city, Baltimore. The small county in Maryland seems a little bit slow to get started on the emerging trend of utilizing GPS tracking for parole violators in the area.

A Pilot Program That’s Not Ready for Primetime
In 2010, the Maryland General Assembly got the ball rolling on a GPS tracking program. It appears to have been designed specifically for individuals that violate protective (presumably restraining) orders. The program comes to an end on Sep. 30 of this year. A bill is on the table in the Maryland General Assembly that would expand the program. Unfortunately, the pilot program thus far has been utilized on only two individuals.

Some lawmakers are accusing the program of being inconsequential, stating that the verbiage of the law as it stands is not clear. The delegates voted 12-8 in favor of sacking the bill. State Senator Christopher Shank suggested changing the bill to simply continue the pilot program, as many felt the program had been, thus far, virtually inconsequential.

Domestic Violence and GPS Tracking
As far as Washington County, Maryland, goes, it is debatable whether or not the pilot program can be judged a success or a failure. With only two individuals “piloted” with GPS tracking due to a protective order violation, the hard date is not likely to be conclusive. The best legislators can do is observe the results garnered by other counties in Maryland, by law enforcement agencies nationwide, and other nations around the world.

An Emerging Global Trend
Using GPS trackers to monitor parole violators or restraining order violators is an emerging global trend. Now famously piloted in Australia, areas of Canada are also dipping their toes in the water with the innovative protective technique. The debate as to its effectiveness is mostly conjectural, and may always be. GPS tracking is relatively expensive, which goes against the grain of politicians wishing to curtail spending. And since the measure is largely preventative, there is no real way to monitor the number of crimes that don’t occur because GPS tracking is present. A final factor inhibiting tactile, actionable data relating to GPS tracking of restraining order violators is the quality of the device itself. If the GPS device is easily removed by the individual in question, then the device’s effectiveness is nullified. If it is a solid GPS device, then it may be valid as a crime prevention tool.

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John Chapman

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