Sheriff: Electronic monitoring system will be 100% GPS-based by October

The Cook County sheriff’s fast-growing electronic monitoring program will transition to GPS-enabled monitoring bracelets by October, the department said Tuesday.

More than 3,300 people are currently wearing court-ordered bracelets in the county, the sheriff’s office said. The number of participants has ballooned as the county court’s affordable bail initiative puts more accused persons on the monitoring system rather than in jail.

Hundreds of jail detainees were released on electronic monitoring in late March and early April to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19.

The county’s monitoring system currently uses a radio-based system that notifies authorities when the monitored person is no longer within range of a base unit that’s placed in their home. But the equipment does not transmit the bracelet’s location, which makes it challenging to track down escapees.

And, an increasing number of accused criminals are taking advantage of one of the old system’s flaws: They can plug their home base unit into a portable power supply and take it anywhere they want.

With the new GPS system, a network of cell towers and satellites will eliminate the need for in-home base units. And, the tracker will give authorities real-time locations of escapees, as long as the runaways are still wearing their bracelet, a spokesperson said.

Authorities can also send messages, vibrations, tones, and voice calls to non-compliant participants through their GPS bracelets, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Workers began making the transition to GPS in July, and every electronic monitoring participant will have a GPS bracelet by October, according to the sheriff’s office.

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