New electronic monitoring devices on the way for B.C. offenders

GPS ankle bracelets allow mapping of movements, alerts if a parolee enters a no-go zone

Advanced new ankle bracelets to electronically monitor high-risk offenders after their release from prison will soon be in use in B.C.

The move comes more than a year after the arrest of paroled rapist Raymond Caissie in the murder of Surrey high school student Serena Vermeersch.

At the time, Justice Minister Suzanne Anton acknowledged the monitoring of high-risk offenders needed to be improved. The Crown did not request electronic monitoring of Caissie.

In July, the province selected UK-based provider Buddi Ltd. to provide new monitoring devices to track released offenders and ensure they don’t violate release conditions.

A justice ministry spokesperson said Buddi will now conduct staff training and equipment testing.

B.C. Corrections expects to begin using the new devices in mid-December.

The hybrid radio frequency/GPS system has better tracking and reporting capabilities, including an ability to program in no-go zones and map an offender’s travels. An alarm sounds at the central monitoring site if the offender enters a restricted area, and vibration alerts on the ankle bracelet remind the offender to comply.

According to Buddi, supervisors can use the data on offender movements to help them alter their behaviour to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The real-time location data may also help police quickly rule out monitored offenders as suspects in a new crime.

The old ankle bracelet system, which relies on a telephone landline, could only verify that an offender was home and was mainly used to monitor house arrest and enforce curfews.

A report to the province late last year said electronic monitoring technology is rapidly improving and future innovations are likely to include smartphone apps that alert victims when an offender is in the vicinity, as well as built-in drug and alcohol screening.