This is an obvious point, but one that is sometimes missed. There are certainly times when knowing a location is important. For example, if a convicted child molester is at an elementary school, then knowing that location is helpful to law enforcement. Similarly, knowing a location after the fact can be used to find an offender who was at the scene of the crime (assuming the offender had not removed the GPS device). However, for the most part, GPS is a small band-aid that gives the illusion of monitoring without really providing information about the activities of an offender. And it looks like Nevada is figuring this out:
Twenty of Southern Nevada's sex offenders were outfitted last week with global positioning system tracking devices. An ankle bracelet, a satellite receiver box strapped to a belt and constant, if imperfect, surveillance. A blind tracking system that follows an offender's every move, but sees none of his actions.
The wireless bridle is an element of Senate Bill 471, which gave the Nevada Public Safety Department's parole and probation officers the ability to track certain sex offenders - generally, high risk offenders who have committed offenses against children younger than 14 - with real-time electronic monitoring.
The legislation, like the GPS technology, has its critics. But critics of the monitoring system find themselves in an awkward position : Defending the rights of sex offenders doesn't make you popular.
The GPS devices are to ensure sex offenders obey a second element of the bill, which is that they never linger within 500 feet of a school, bus stop, video arcade, park, day-care facility, movie theater, etc. Anywhere, really, where children congregate. In the parlance of parole, these are "exclusionary zones." Wander too close, the little green dot goes red and alerts an officer. Same if the satellite l oses the device's signal or the offender fails to recharge the GPS unit when needed or tries to separate the ankle bracelet from the satellite box (so that someone else would be tracked)....
GPS isn't a silver bullet, and everybody knows it. Including the offenders.
Jake Goldenflame, a San Francisco resident convicted of incest with a juvenile 17 years ago, describes himself as "in recovery." Were he not committed to recovery, Goldenflame admits , if children knocked on his door to sell cookies, the GPS would never tell, and neither would he.
"All these things really do is say where you're supposed to be," Goldenflame said, "but not a thing about what you're doing there."